The EU Budget, now that the dust has settled

Last week, David Cameron went to Brussels to negotiate the EU Budget.  Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to consider how he got on.

Before he went, he was very clear.  The EU budget should be cut, just as national budgets were being cut, or at least frozen.  Many of us were rather surprised, therefore, when he came back to announce a great British success: the budget was to be raised by “only” 2.9%.  But this was exactly the position previously agreed by the Council in August, so on the face of it, it was no success at all — merely the Council’s status quo. Cameron was forced to argue that the Council had at least firmed up its negotiating position.

His announcement had echoes of John Major’s notorious “Game, Set & Match” sound-bite after Maastricht, or even Chamberlain’s infamous “Peace in our time” claim after Munich in 1938.

We need to understand that even now, the Council’s position is only an opening negotiating stance.  There will now be horse-trading between the Council, the parliament and the Commission, and seasoned Brussels-watchers will be surprised if the outcome is not somewhere north of 2.9%.

Even at 2.9%, we will be giving nearly an extra half billion pounds a year to Brussels.  And that’s on top of the extra two or three billion we are handing over as a result of Tony Blair’s hopelessly inept negotiations several years ago, when he gave away a large part of Maggie Thatcher’s Fontainebleau rebate, in exchange for nebulous promises about CAP reform.

Now, however, we have a new element in the mix.  Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel wants a tougher sanctions régime for eurozone states that run up excessive deficits, as Greece has done.  This will require a change in the Treaties, although it is not totally clear at this stage whether it actually needs an entirely new Treaty (the EU is desperate to avoid any further referenda, which it would expect to lose), or whether they can make use of the Lisbon Treaty’s “passerelle clauses” to alter the existing Treaty.

But either way (I understand), the UK will have a veto, and if it’s a new Treaty, a pretext for a referendum.  Just now, eurosceptic Tories (the overwhelming majority of the Party’s members and activists) are increasingly disillusioned with the new Conservative-led government’s approach to Brussels.  We have rolled over on the EU diplomatic service, on EU financial regulation, on the European Investigation Order — and even on “Votes for Convicts”.  Our government has shown a spectacular lack of backbone.

But now we face a litmus test.  Does Cameron have a shopping list?  Will he use his potential veto to make serious demands of Brussels, and to start repatriating powers (he could start with the Working Time Directive, and employment law generally)?  Or will he let another opportunity slip by?  Unless he makes a stand, more and more Party members will start to wonder why they work their socks off for a Party that so spectacularly fails to deliver on this touchstone issue.

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9 Responses to The EU Budget, now that the dust has settled

  1. Harry says:

    We’ve handed our military to perfidious France. When will this be called what it is – treason?

  2. Cameron will need to make a stand against his critics. That’ll be his litmus test as a leader.

  3. WitteringsfromWitney says:

    Roger, why is one power for repatriation more important than another? Surely every power that has been transferred should be repatriated? Why should the political elite decide on the order of any ‘shopping list’? Is that decision not that of the people?

    I despair of politicians both those at home and those in Brussels!

  4. Mandy Worrall says:

    Doing nothing while still a member of Camerons party, after all he has done to let us down, could be called complicite. When is everyone who agrees we should leave the EU actually going to do more than grumble? Let’s take our party backto have a chance to get the UK back, otherwise all is lost. I’m not a good loser, are you?

  5. But we don’t all agree the UK should leave. Nor does the Conservative Party. The ultra sceps have lost.

  6. Roger,

    This EUobs article (http://euobserver.com/18/31163) suggests that the ‘special revision procedure’ (aka. passerelle / self-amending clause) will indeed be used to implement the permanent crisis mechanism (for the permanent crisis!), though it doesn’t cite a source (perhaps the later-named “Danish diplomat”?) and this isn’t mentioned in the Presidency Conclusions. It’s thought that the scale of revision necessary to later implement the budgetary surveillance / sanctions plan will require the full revision procedure with ratification.

    Second thought; if we were required to commit £8bn to a potential Greek bailout under Article 122 (solidarity in the case of natural disasters or circumstances beyond control) how is David Cameron going to demand this article is amended in order to close off our vulnerablility to future legally dubious bailout demands? If this door remains open, surely an opt-out from the formal mechanism will be meaningless.

    Finally, might David Cameron be hoping that extended deadlock between the Council and EU ‘parliament’ / Commission on the exact scale of budget increase will deliver the freeze he wants? Of course, that depends on the Council holding firm at 2.9%. If they don’t, Cameron will look very foolish indeed. If of interest, discussion of this here: http://democracymovementblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/will-cameron-yet-freeze-eu-budget.html

    all the best,
    -Stuart-

    • Thanks Stuart. Trouble is, no one seems really sure about the exact ramifications of the passerelle clauses. I have the impression that Merkel wants a new treaty to satisfy the German Constitutional Court. I don’t think that Cameron can rely on deadlock to deliver a freeze — and he was naive to suggest it. The others will want to agree a budget, and I don’t believe Cameron has the stomach for a lone veto.

  7. Roger Jones says:

    Roger Helmer talks so much sence on many subjects but in particular on his opposition to the EU. I cannot understand why every leader starts off talking tough but then immediately gives in to EU demands. I just don’t understand why they turn ‘native’. Is it in the water, have they been bribed, have they been threatened, is the ‘money power’ so powerful that leaders of nations are afraid? Something is going on behind the scenes and whatever it is, it is really nasty.

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