I am all in favour of famine relief, and want our country to be generous when other countries face disaster or extreme poverty. I am not in favour of an EU diplomatic service, and do not think Russia, China and India need our overseas aid.
Two of the budgets which are rising over this period of public sector restraint are the EU and Overseas Aid budgets. Over the five years of this planned government £41 billion will be spent on contributions to the EU and £39 billion spent on overseas aid, a grand total of £80 billion. The annual figure for the two combined hits £18.9 billion in 2014-15. The government plans to borrow an extra £460 billion over period 2010-2015, so these two programmes account for over one sixth of the additional borrowing.
The immediate problem is the EU budget. Many in Brussels and Strasbourg favour a substantial increase in the budget next year, to pay for an expanded Diplomatic service and for new regulators in the financial field placing themselves above the Uk regulators. The UK government’s position is to modestly ask for a standstill budget. Many of the government’s supporters would like it to seek a reduction in the budget, believing more of the EU spending is marginal than the domestic spending that is being cut. Current expansion plans for more powers and more staff should be put on hold.
You would have thought when there are riots on the streets of Paris over domestic spending cuts, trouble on the streets of Greece over their big cuts, unhappiness over the budget cuts in Dublin, Lisbon and Madrid, now would be a good time for the governments of the EU to call a halt to the ever upwards climb of the EU’s budget and responsibilities. Surely others can see what we can see – total spending is too high, and EU spending is less important than many parts of domestic spending?
EU officials are busy lecturing the member states on the need for them to rein in their budget deficits and get them back down to 3% of National Income or less. Why then doesn’t the EU show them by example how to do it? The EU should be offering us all a rebate or a reduciton in our contributions. It is a sobering thought that all the contributions to next year’s EU budget are being borrowed, as every member state is borrowing to keep itself going. If the EU is serious about curbing the debts, it needs to curb itself.
I want the Uk government to up the pressure on other member states to bring this wayward budget under control. Now is the time to win some influence and bring the EU to a more commonsense answer to their budget conundrum.