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
    +2

    Comment number 49.

    There is no place for analysis here just telegrams.

    The euro countries are heading for more integration, UK is heading for a veto. The result will either be a big bang, or more likely an agreement that gives the green light for the euro countries and changes the UK membership to that of an associated country.

    To other EU sceptic countries this perspective is uneatable.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 48.

    If the UK had taken up the offer to join the EEC in 1957, then it's structure would have been different..
    The story of the UK and the EEC/EU is one of standing back while decisions are taken and then complaining about the outcome.
    On the Euro, while correct to remain outside(without fiscal union, there was bound to be problems), again we had no input into it's planning or entry requirements.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 47.

    I wish, I really, really wish, that I could find somewhere that had accurate, unbiased statistics and accounts concerning the UK's overall profit & loss wrt the EU. Remember, I said *unbiased*: I'm not after proving any particular point.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 46.

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

    How about something that plays well in the UK for a change a BIG change!

    They should have complained when we did not get the referendum we were promised.

    The "EU" may be moving to become a pan-"EU" police state.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 45.

    Susie - How can Pt, It,Ie,Gr, eS pay more? Simply renage on their debt and then subsidies FR & DE whilst their banks collapse.

    Terryties - This will help mop up the Gravy train wreck ;-)

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 44.

    The EU has become a huge machine of corruption.
    MEPs who sign into work on Fridays & get paid,even though it's closed.
    And when the odd country does get a referendum-it's repeated until they get the "right" vote.
    Audits that haven't been signed off in years-no company would be allowed to get away with this.
    We should be done with it-it stinks!!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 43.

    @15.John
    There is so much wastage it makes Westminister look as if it is prudent with our cash

    People say stuff like this but have little idea when questioned about how the money is spent. If you even don't know what commisioners do its hardly likely you know the intricacies of EU spending, good & bad. Most people are just regurgitating slogans they've heard with no real knowledge to back it up.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 42.

    Real focus should be on CostasVaxevanis &outrageous arrest of this courageous man trying to make timely valid point to the global power elites:unless &until affluentGreeks face up to their obligation to pay their fair share towards what allGreek citizens must be expected to contribute to the upkeep of their society,it is ridiculous to keep asking outsiders to provide rescue funds.Help expose crime

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 41.

    The simple answer, which the leadership of the three main parties refuse to admit, is for the UK to leave the EU entirely. Those MPs who defy the party whips on Europe are not, as the media claims, disloyal but rather put country above party. Why should one who believes the UK should be independent follow the line laid down by those who have a vested interest in keeping the EU gravy train running?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 40.

    @25.susie
    If we are finding it hard to pay the dues to EU.

    we're not, its a tiny fraction of gdp, its not that we can't pay, its that we don't want to

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 39.

    Why does there need to be an increase in the budget? The Lisbon Treaty was sold to us as necessary to make the E.U. more efficient and nothing to do with increased powers. Since then we have had above inflation increases and the Commission now saying they need more money because of the new powers they have.
    If it becomes any more efficient we will be bankrupt.
    Lies and double speak prevail

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 38.

    Last year I was talking to a farmer in South West France who recieve's some ^0k euros for growing Tobacco, yes thats right. However he felt it was such a paltry sum so he simply banked it and retired to the bar. He never grew the Tobacco, he has no intention of growing the plant, he simply accepts the cash and lets his land grow in to a wilderness. No EU official visits or audits his farm accounts

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 37.

    If they stopped moving the European Parliament for Brussels toStrasbourg 12 times a year just to keep the French happy would save a fortune It's about time the whole bureaucracy of the EU was looked at eliminate the commissioners and reduce the number of Euro MP's. oh I have just seen a pig flying past my window

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 36.

    I thought the word of the moment was 'austerity.' Apparently, it doesn't apply to everyone. Or is Brussels about to announce a change of plan to 'wise investment'?

    For or against the EU, at best there's something inconsistent, at worst, seriously wrong.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 35.

    In reply to rogerstorer (comment 31), even as a pro-European who recognises that the EU has done more good than harm, I think it is very unfair to be critical of the "Keep the Pound" mentality, which has saved the UK a lot of the pain that others in the Eurozone are now suffering.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 34.

    How can a budget be justified when nearly 70% is spent on countries economically lagging behind other member states, I presume Greece is included in that group and subsidy of the farming community.

    I also presume the UK is not considered in this group?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 33.

    20. "after all the best evidence we have was UKIP's paltry share of the vote at the last election...."

    Funny, I thought the best evidence was the last European Parliament election in 2009, when you get to vote on how Europe runs.

    Can you remember who came first and second?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 32.

    How about organising a team of independant 'top drawer' accountants, not involved directly with the organisation? To carry out a full audit of all EU departments, Producing a written report showing us all how our money is being spent.The continual refusal to sign off the accounts is unbelievable but goes on and on. The botled water bill alone must be costing millions. We must all wake up!

  • rate this
    -10

    Comment number 31.

    It is a shame that debate has entered the 'Keep the pound' mentality of a decade ago. Yes the Brussels world is a gravy train of bureaucracy. Yes it gives too much to agriculture. Yes it was formed in a bygone era to stop war and have economic trade. But the world has moved on and if we aren't in their shaping the EU we will become an even greater backwater of irrelevence than we already are.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 30.

    @20. Little_Old_Me "...the best evidence we have was UKIP's paltry share of the vote at the last election...."

    Don't you know UKIP got about double the votes of the SNP ?

 

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