MEPs attack UK resistance to EU budget rise

The European Parliament has clashed with the UK government over the EU's budget, with one leading Euro MP scorning a UK "provocation to Europe".

Guy Verhofstadt, head of the liberal group (ALDE), accused the UK of "continuing the policies of the past".

MEPs voted overwhelmingly for a 5% rise in the EU's budget for 2014-2020.

The UK and some other EU governments want the seven-year budget capped at the EU inflation rate, currently 3.2%. More tough negotiations are expected.

MEPs backed a report by the parliament's Policy Challenges Committee on the budget - called the EU's Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) - with 468 votes in favour and 134 against.

Mr Verhofstadt, a former prime minister of Belgium, said that increasing the EU's role could help reduce the UK's public sector budget, through pooling resources with other member states.

He urged the UK to join the euro and to work towards a single EU foreign policy "to make savings in the department of Mr William Hague".

British Conservative MEP Richard Ashworth defended Downing Street's opposition to the proposed 5% increase and accused Mr Verhofstadt of "missing the point and facing in the wrong direction".

Mr Ashworth, the leading UK Conservative on the Policy Challenges Committee, said the European Parliament would be "extremely unwise" to ignore EU-wide austerity measures.

"More Europe is not the answer, smarter Europe is," he said.

The European Commission will present its recommendations on the MFF on 29 June. It has already indicated that its position is similar to the parliamentary committee's.

The MEPs' report, drafted by Spanish centre-right politician Salvador Garriga, says that "freezing the EU budget, as demanded by some member states, should not be considered a viable option as it would be detrimental for the achievement of the Union's agreed objectives".

The report recommends shifting the budget away from the system of national contributions. Instead, it says the MFF should be funded from "own resources" - direct EU levies such as a carbon tax or aviation tax.

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