“People said I cannot cut the EU budget. I cut the EU budget.” David Cameron boasted on BBC 4’s Today program this week.
Time and time again – including in his keynote speech to the Conservative Party Conference – the Prime Minister proudly trotted out this claim to defy the critics of his renegotiation strategy.
For all of call me Dave’s bluster, the European Parliament has predictably announced they want to reverse Cameron’s budget cuts next year, even while the Tory Conference was in full swing. Even this most minor of Cameron’s few accomplishments will be demolished in the face of opposition from Brussels.
Picture the scene: It is February 2013. Cameron returned home from Brussels in a mood of jubilant celebration. The EU budget had been cut. Victory had been secured – a fait accompli. Truthfully, this budget cut was nothing more than a mirage!
The Prime Minister may well have pressured the Council of Ministers to agree to budget cuts. But in reality, elected national leaders have very little influence in the modern European project. Cameron’s cut would always have to be approved by the Parliament, so why does he keep repeating this claim?
Recently, the respected economist Professor Tim Congdon made note of Cameron’s claims, saying: “I am therefore going to call him an outright and brazen liar, and invite him or any member of his government to challenge me in court.”[i]
If the budget cuts Cameron negotiated don’t materialise, how can the public believe he will get rid off ‘ever closer union’? Yet again, Cameron’s half-baked promises amount to nonsense.
The Budgetary Committee of the European Parliament, voting on these proposals this week, thoroughly rejected any notion of fiscal restraint.
Even as Eurozone countries sink further into financial despair, MEPs demanded even more spending – telling the Commission to reverse ALL the 2015 cuts so they can plug a growing black hole in spending.
If the Parliament gets its way, cuts totalling £2 billion will not now happen. The reason given: overspending from 2013 in a series of European programs, including Horizon 2020 and the Erasmus scheme.
Instead of kicking the can down the road – by demanding ever-larger increases or resisting even microscopic cuts – the European Parliament needs to kick its addiction to squandering the Great British Public’s hard earned cash.
But this affront to our Prime Minister is about more than lax spending and accounting errors. It’s about a European elite that is ideologically wedded to the idea that ever more resources and competencies should be transferred to the EU.
While bureaucrats in Brussels were voting for our Prime Minister’s cuts to be reversed – in Birmingham, Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond was busy bragging to Tory conference. “David Cameron secured the first ever cut in the EU budget.’ Once more he was repeating an increasingly disingenuous claim.
Under Cameron’s proposals the 2015 budget cut represented a measly 0.5% of total spending for that year. But even this minuscule reduction is too much to stomach, for MEPs whose snouts are so unashamedly lodged in the trough.
This not only illustrates the futility of Cameron’s efforts to reform the EU, it also highlights a gaping hole in the logic of his renegotiation strategy. Cameron’s derisory budget proposals have crumbled under the weight of a system intentionally designed to neuter the influence of individual nation states.
What hope for renegotiation of free movement rules, or the social chapter for example? The elephant in the negotiating chamber with the PM – it’s called unanimity. It is the principle at the heart of the European project, ensuring that powers only ever flow one way across the Channel.
This principle will be used, by the vested interests in Europe, to water down and degrade Cameron’s repatriation, rendering it cosmetic at best. This budget farce demonstrates – even with all the will in the world – the European Union is unaffordable and unreformable. We need to Get Britain Out as soon as possible.