Yesterday the Commons was asked to debate the massive Trans European Networks plans. As the super state lumbers on its way, they now set out grand plans to link the cities and states of the new EU empire by rail lines, roads, canals and broadband networks. They mention subsidiarity in passing, but you can detect the bureaucratic impatience to complete the links and centralise the new Europe. There’s every wish to spend lots more money.
The Coalition government tabled a suitably sceptical motion. It pledged to negotiate less spending on this area of work than the Commission wanted. There were plenty of Conservative backbenchers there to say or to cheer any idea of the EU spending less and leaving more to individual member state determination. Some also wanted to remind the Commons of just how expensive the surrender of the UK rebate by the last government is proving, and how there has been none of the promised reform of the CAP in return.
I used the opportunity to ask the Minister about the status of the UK’s HS2 project. He confirmed what I have been telling many of you. HS2 is a project which the UK can and does decide for itself. It is not mandated by the EU, and is not on the maps as a crucial part of the EU’s European networks. Critics of the scheme should attack it on its domestic merits and defects, not as a further illustration of too much EU power. There does not seem to be any wish by the EU to find EU money raised from member states to help this project.
There was plenty of other material in the voluminous documents for TENs to display just how much power the EU already has in these areas, and how much it wishes to obtain. The request for a larger budget is one more manifestation of its power grabbing tendencies. You would have thought that after all its homilies to member states to spend less and to rein in budget deficits, it would have applied the message to itself. It should see that this area of transport infrastructure is best left to the member states, who have to fight through the routes and find most of the money. You would have thought that at a time of such necessary restraint on public spending throughout the EU the EU itself would show a bit more restraint.
Yesterday’s debate also gave me the opportunity to ask Labour if it still opposed extra money for the IMF, given that it might be used to bail out Euroland countries. The Labour spokesman declined to answer. It feels as if Labour are going off the idea of voting against more money for the IMF. Meanwhile, we all wait to see whether there will be G20 agreement to more money for this institution. The UK government has made two caveats about possibly increasing funding. It has said it does not want IMF money bailing out a currency. It has said the UK should not commit more funds unless China, the US and other non EU G20 members are going to do so as well.
I am happy with the rubric that the IMF should not bail out a currency. I think that should mean no bail outs for Euro member countries who do not leave the currency at the time of the bail out. It is difficult to see conventional IMF remedies can work without a devaluation. I am not sure that’s how the government interprets that phrase.