While George Osborne proposed his cuts package to the House of Commons, Euro-MPs were voting on the first round of the annual EU budget debate. The European Parliament called for a 5.9% increase.
Are these MEPs living in the real world? They claim that the money is needed to meet extra tasks the EU is expected to undertake, and anyway “it’s just a negotiating position.” I think it is madness, absolutely barmy, and makes us look out of touch with reality.
The majority approach is to contest virtually all cuts proposed by the European Council (the governments), even when money is going unspent, on the grounds that the cash could be put to use somehow. But there are some cuts I would be happy to support; for example, the Council is proposing to cut Common Fisheries Policy support by €140 million. Cutting a budget used to support unsustainable fishing practices sounds good to me.
And the budget of the European Parliament could be trimmed very significantly without any diminution in its functions. Our MPs and councillors are having to take action to “live within their means.” The difference is that MEPs are not responsible for raising the money they want to spend.
The Liberal Democrat European Group (ALDE) voted for the budget increase (comments from continental colleagues at our pre-meeting about not everyone in Europe having to be judged by the state of Britain’s finances). The British Lib Dems indicated our dissent, and voted accordingly. To do otherwise didn’t seem politically credible.