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Europe

UK's Cameron talks tough on EU budget and rebate

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2012-11-22

British Prime Minister David Cameron will push for cuts in EU spending while fighting to keep the UK’s annual rebate as member states meet in Brussels on Thursday to set the 2014-2020 budget.

British Prime Minister David Cameron will push for slashing EU spending while fighting to retain the UK’s annual rebate as leaders from around Europe meet in Brussels Thursday for an EU budget summit.

Cameron, facing growing Euroscepticism at home, is under huge pressure to put the brakes on proposed hikes in the bloc’s 2014-2020 budget, most of which go to farming subsidies and to promoting growth in less economically advanced EU countries.
 
The rebate, which is designed to offset the fact that the UK receives fewer farming subsidies through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) than France, is worth around 3.6 billion euros a year.
 
It was secured by former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984, and any attempt to end it would cause a backlash from increasingly vocal Eurosceptic members of Cameron’s Conservative party.
 
In October, 81 of his party’s 303 members of parliament defied the government’s instructions and voted in favour of a referendum on EU membership in 2015.
 
Meanwhile, public support for Britain to leave the EU is growing, with a poll for left-leaning and largely pro-Europe daily The Guardian last week showing that 56 percent of Britons would vote to leave the bloc if there were a referendum.
 
And an online survey by The Guardian’s sister paper the Observer in September revealed that support for the minority UK Independence Party had overtaken the popularity of the Liberal Democrats, currently coalition partners with Cameron’s Conservatives.
 
Increased spending would be ‘quite wrong’
 
All this means Cameron is unlikely to compromise on his tough stance on the budget, which totalled approximately one trillion euros between 2007 and 2013. According to the Financial Times, Cameron would be prepared to accept a ceiling of 940 billion euros.
 
“These are very important negotiations,” Cameron told reporters before a preliminary meeting with European Council president Herman van Rompuy.
 
“Clearly, at a time when we’re making difficult decisions at home over public spending, it would be quite wrong -- it is quite wrong -- for there to be proposals for this increased extra spending in the EU.
 
“So we’re going to be negotiating very hard for a good deal for Britain’s taxpayers and for Europe’s taxpayers, and to keep the British rebate.”
 
At the heart of the debate are opposing arguments on the need to lower debt against investment to promote economic growth, the same quandary faced by EU countries crippled by debt while struggling to restrain unemployment in the context of stagnant economies.
 
Cameron’s arguments are supported by some other member states, including the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany.
 
But they are opposed by other members such as Spain and Poland, who are heading a group of countries set to argue for increased funding to promote growth, reduce unemployment and bridge the wealth gap between the poorer and richer nations in the bloc.
 
Each of the EU’s 27 members has the power to veto any decision made at the summit – and many members have threatened to wield their vetoes for different reasons.
 
If members fail to find a compromise, the budget debate is likely to spill over to another meeting in the coming months.

 

Date created : 2012-11-22

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