Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Euro-MPs reject calls to cut vast Brussels budget and instead demand Britain stumps up MORE cash with support of the Lib Dems

David Cameron’s hard-fought deal on the EU budget was dealt a blow by Liberal Democrat MEPs last night when they voted for the package to be renegotiated.

MEPs have overwhelmingly rejected the seven-year £ 787 billion pounds deal thrashed out by national leaders last month after marathon talks lasting 32 hours.

The package had cut the EU’s budget by 3.3 per cent from 2014 to 2020 and was hailed as a great success by the Prime Minister.

But yesterday WEDS the European parliament in Strasbourg passed a wrecking resolution was passed by 506 to 161 - including 12 Lib Dems.

Although they did not explicitly reject the 3.3 per cent cut agreed by the Council at its marathon Brussels summit last month, the vote does mean the deal has to be thrashed out again.

The European Parliament has demanded conditions such as the settling of unpaid bills for this year - which could mean a 12 per cent rise in national contributions, or an extra £1.7 billion for Britain.

MEPs have also demanded that they be allowed to shuffle money between different budgets allowing them to splurge even when they manage to make savings.

They also argued that the European Parliament should be able to review the budget, possibly raising its spending in 2017, rather than being tied to a seven- year ‘austerity deal’.

They even called for tax-raising powers which critics warned would lead to British families having to stump up for every pet project dreamed up by the European Parliament.

European leaders including the Prime Minister last month voted in favour of a £30 billion reduction in the EU’s 2014-2020 budget after 32 hours of talks. Britain’s contribution is around £14billion.

Yesterday’s vote will frustrate Downing Street after Mr Cameron championed the need for Europe to tighten its belt.

Liberal Democrats insisted that they did support the overall size of the package but they wanted a ‘better deal’ for Britain by allowing more of the cash to be spent on infrastructure.

They also want the Budget to be increased in 2017 ‘if the economic conditions change’.

A spokesman said: ‘We voted for the size of the Budget but we want to have a debate on how that’s spent.’

Hannes Swoboda, leader of the Socialist grouping in the parliament, said: ‘Today’s vote is a clear indication that the European Parliament has accepted the responsibilities given to it by the treaties and will fight for an improved budget for the EU.’

European Conservatives leader Martin Callanan, whose MEPs voted in line with Mr Cameron’s deal, said: ‘The European Parliament is engaging in the worst kind of posturing, which makes it look completely out of touch with reality.

‘The EU budget deal was a reasonable compromise between many competing demands.‘

He added: ‘We can accept that there should be some budgetary flexibility and a mid-term review of spending but EU tax-raising powers would only see European taxpayers forced to pay for every pet project the EU dreams up. This would be a bad outcome for the European economy.’

Ukip voted against the budget deal - but only because the party felt it was still too high.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman insisted that he stood by his original support for a lower budget. ‘The PM’s view on the issue of the EU budget for the seven-year period is that the 27 EU member states have set the credit card limit and that is the right agreement.

‘There is a process of discussion between the EU institutions going forward over the next few months, but the PM’s position on the EU budget is unchanged. The PM’s view is that there was a very, very clear signal and agreement reached by the EU 27.’

The European Parliament will now enter into negotiations with Member States and a deal is expected by May or June.

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