Britain's fight over EU budget as Brussels seeks rise

 
UK PM David Cameron in Brussels. File photo Forging a deal on 22 November will be tough for David Cameron

Britain is not alone in seeking to rein in the EU budget. It has allies.

Plenty of other countries agree that the EU cannot ask for austerity on the one hand, whilst not applying the same demands to itself.

No other country, however, takes such a hardline position as the UK.

The EU Commission wants a 5% increase in the seven-year budget. That would increase it to over 1tn euros (£830bn; $1.3tn).

The Germans want to limit the budget to 1% of the bloc's GDP. That would be over 100bn euros less than the Commission wants.

The British want a freeze in EU spending, allowing for inflation. That would produce a budget about 70bn euros less than the Germans.

Others have their objections. The Swedes believe the priorities are wrong: too much money is still going on agriculture.

The Poles fear that a budget freeze will reduce the funds they receive from the cohesion funds - EU money that helps the poorest regions across the 27-nation bloc.

EU draft budget for 2013

  • Total - 137.9bn euros
  • Cohesion (spending on Europe's poorer regions) - 49bn
  • Agricultural support - 44.1bn
  • Administration - 8.5bn

There are groups, like the Socialists in the European Parliament, who are warning against the budget becoming a victim of domestic political infighting.

No other member state would support a reduction in spending. The Commission says cutting its proposed increase would damage growth.

Forging an agreement on 22 November will be very difficult. Extra food has been ordered in case the summit extends into the weekend.

There has even been consideration of whether to postpone the meeting altogether.

British 'exceptionalism'

Much will turn on talks next week between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and David Cameron.

The Germans will be looking for compromise. The fear in Berlin is that the British have left themselves little room to manoeuvre in saying - as George Osborne did today - "we will veto any deal not good for British tax-payers".

That plays badly in Europe. The culture is built around compromise and deal-making.

The mood in Europe in recent months has turned against Britain.

On a visit to Berlin this week, I was left in no doubt that the German government would prefer the UK to remain at the heart of Europe. There is not the inclination, however, to make too many concessions or to pander to what is called British exceptionalism.

What they will not accept is that Britain either obstructs moves aimed at solving the eurozone crisis or disrupts EU business.

The UK proudly says it has the toughest negotiating stance of any EU state, but if it is to avoid being isolated it will have to forge alliances - and that usually involves horse-trading.

 
Gavin Hewitt, Europe editor Article written by Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

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  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 29.

    Ordering extra food? That's a mistake! Empty stomachs would help concentrate their minds! I'm sure that the 'begging bowl' states will get their way, and everyone else will have to pay up or leave. And no-one is going to do that, even us. The poorer regions want their life support funding and just who is going to cut that off?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 28.

    Don't know why Cameron's 'defeat' is seen as a big political story. I would have thought that it makes it obvious that he has very little room for compromise and therefore strengthens his hand when arguing (sorry discussing) with the rest of the EU.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 27.

    Is Brussels so stupid that it doesn't recognise that it is it's very greed that will destroy Europe?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 26.

    'Fog' in Channel - Europe cut off!
    UK goes it own way - Europe out of step!
    Mr Cameron you are in government - stop worrying about an opposition being opportunistic. Worry more about the 53 of your loyal crew.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 25.

    If we are finding it hard to pay the dues to EU. How are Spain, Italy, Portugal, Eire and Greece going to manage?

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 24.

    What company could get away with not producing yearly audits ? The ammount of waste is incredible, the UE is just gravy train for all who work there, no restraints, I bet the personal expenses aren't vetted & just abused, when is this monster going to be reined in & brought under control? The Tories, Labour & Cleggs jokers just stand on the sidelines wringing their hands.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 23.

    The EU could raise it's budget by asking other nations to pay more, PT,IT,IE,GR,ES, etc. FR could also take less farm subsidies close Strasbourg & DE could pay a manufacturing tax as it benefits most from the €uro.

    If we are to pay more then we should expect more, failing audits should be refunded, a money back guarantee.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 22.

    Europe is sailing away from the UK (and it was never that close in the first place). Let it go... after all what has it ever done for us?

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 21.

    I wonder how much all that extra food they ordered has cost?

    Isn't it about time the EU actually looked at how and who spends its money.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 20.

    16.smarty4


    Or perhaps the majority of Brits are not anti, but pro, EU - after all the best evidence we have was UKIP's paltry share of the vote at the last election....

    ....just because the antis make such a terrbile din doesn't mean thay are in the majority.....

    .....personally I'd like a referendum just to shut the moaners up....

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 19.

    PutneyCommon: "...where all the postmen were white, a police office doffed his cap to the local doctor and felt the collars of the ruffians on the local council estate."

    ...and, in those bad, old, riotless days, a man who was the only earner in the family could support a wife and 2.4 children. Mind you, he wasn't supporting Greece, Italy, Eire...

    So glad we don't live like that now!

  • rate this
    +19

    Comment number 18.

    Britain will be painted as bad europeans because we won't play ball and allow the EU to spend what they want.

    I can't say I really care but do fear that this will be wielded against us when it comes to EU policies & decisions in the future. An immediate in/out vote would be preferable ~ either fully engage and throw our lot in with the EU or reject being marginalised and go it alone.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 17.

    We already have an overloaded administration in this country,we do not need this duplicated in Europe. Why should we pay for thousands of useless administrators in Europe ? We have our own currency, our own laws, and dare I suggest, our own democratically elected government, why do we need any of the institutions of the EU ? All we require from Europe is a free trade, area not political dominance.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 16.

    See we must have a lot of dream world lib dems on here again today hitting the down button !!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 15.

    The EU needs to reverse course on the 'Federal States of Europe' agenda and get back to separate sovereign states trading for the benefit of all.
    What do 'Commissioners' actually do?
    What does the EU Parliament do?
    There is so much wastage it makes Westminister look as if it is prudent with our cash.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 14.

    If German Govt. is saying the settled view of most UK voters is "British exceptionalism" they are being very cheeky. I also take "exception" to EU's disgraceful failure to even sign off it's accounts these many years.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 13.

    The description of the situation by Mr. Hewitt is correct, and ARD is now writing on its web site that the UK is drifting away from the continent.

    Is PM Cameron ready for a break and is this also the case of (the British) Parliament?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 12.

    The Tories are "all over the map" on this - as President Obama would say.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 11.

    It has been pretty irritating to hear time and again Euro-apocalypse. Doom and gloom prophecies in the British media is really angering people. All this is totally unnecessary, and although there are difficulties there is a great deal of normality in Europe. From European perspective British attacks on EU debt problems 2012 sound like Mayas prediction of the end of world...

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 10.

    I never favoured Britain joining the Common Market , perhaps because I had instinctive forboding of what was to come , as I did also with the Euro . I believe Britain needs to have an In/Out referendum NOW , before the next election . We need to clean the slate and start again . PutneyCommon , Britain generally trades at a loss within the EU and profitably with the rest of the world .

 

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