EU budget must not rise in line with commission demands, says Cameron
British prime minister David Cameron has insisted that the seven-year European Union budget beginning in 2014 cannot be allowed to rise in line with “ludicrous” European Commission demands.
As a consequence of his stance Mr Cameron is facing isolation in EU negotiations later this week.
“I feel I have got the people of Europe on my side in arguing that we should stop endlessly picking their pockets spending more and more money through the EU budget, particularly when so many parts of the EU budget are not well spent,” he told business leaders in London.
However, the battle among Conservatives over the EU was brought into sharp focus when veteran Tory minister and pro-Europe minister Ken Clarke said a union exit would be “a disaster” for the UK. And Mr Cameron’s one-time leadership challenger David Davis demanded a referendum on the issue next year.
In a speech to the Confederation of British Industry, Mr Cameron outlined his reasons for opposing an increase in the budget – one the commission wants to increase by almost €100 billion.
“Back here in the UK, I have frozen some people’s benefits, I’ve frozen some people’s pay, and I’ve cut some central budgets by 30 per cent. I’ve had to cut things like the police budget by 20 per cent,” he said.
In a display of brinkmanship in advance of this week’s EU summit, it was reported over the weekend that the rest of the union is considering ways to decide the budget without the UK.
Over the weekend Mr Cameron spoke to fellow EU leaders and can veto this week’s negotiations. But other members can decide on a one-year budget that will increase the UK’s contribution automatically. However, his opening demand for a budget cut is an impossibility.
Mr Davis reflects the views of an ever-larger number of Tory MPs. He said voters should be faced with two referendums: the first to decide what powers they want back from Brussels; the second giving voters the option of accepting the renegotiation terms.
“There is little doubt in my mind that the political elites will be unable to escape holding an in-out referendum in the next five years or so,” said Mr Davis. There was no “real threat” that it would split the Tories because they are “now over 90 per cent Eurosceptic”.
Mr Clarke said: “It would be a disaster for the British economy if we were to leave the European Union. It damages our influence . . . if we keep casting doubt on our membership.”