Yesterday afternoon and evening Conservative MPs massed in the Commons to complain that at a time when all the talk is of cuts the EU budget marches onwards and upwards. Most Labour MPs had gone home or found other things to do. Their Spokeswoman was unable to tell us whether Labour MEPs would seek to vote the generous budget down or not in the European Parliament where we could do with their help.
It was an impressive display. No MP rose to support the European budget. The overwhelming sense of the session was that Conservative MPs want cuts in the EU budget. MPs understand that this budget proceeds by a combination of European Parliament votes and Council of Ministers votes, and knows that means the Uk needs to find allies to cut the budget.
To strengthen the negotiating Ministers hand 42 of us voted for an amendment asking for cuts, and all others who spoke said the same thing. Many others abstained or voted against the amendment under protest. Surely other EU countries can see the point. If France is making cuts that already have caused riots on the streets, if Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain are cutting items that are valued by their electorates, why won’t they agree with the UK that there are much easier cuts to be had in the European budget?
It’s a sobering thought that all 143 billion euros of next year’s EU budget will have to be borrowed by the member states who pay for it. Why on earth do they want to do that?
It’s also infuriating that the increase in the UK’s contributions thanks to Blair’s surrender of part of our rebate willl be twice the level of savings from the Child Benefit cut.