Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Austerity - but not for all

While today's emergency budget in the UK provided many talking points for the media at large – it also provided new information for those with an interest in the UK’s ever-increasing contribution to the European budget *(courtesy of one T.Blair).

Hopefully this graph should illustrate how sharply our contributions climbed last year, and will continue climbing until 2014/15 when the contribution will hit an estimated £10.3 billion – (no explanation as yet as to why it is then predicted to fall back in 2015/2016 as the contribution for that year is still to be negotiated - we suspect wishful thinking). In a decade, the UK's net contribution has therefore increased by around 230%.

While our exasperation at the poor hand Tony Blair negotiated in the 2005 budget deal has been well-documented – these figures are further evidence of that legacy.

As we move to contribute such increasingly vast sums to the EU budget, it should focus the Government, and the Commission, more than ever on obtaining real value for money.

The EU wastes a great deal of money – it’s budget is bloated and its financial management controls are not up to scratch. This much is undeniably true. But if examples of ridiculous EU spending were met with indignation amongst citizens before, they will jar all the more resolutely from now on. Spending cuts and austerity measures are now the order of the day, and the order of tomorrow. But this new order has escaped Brussels - as Bruno Waterfield points out on his EUobserver blog.

So the next time Jose Manuel Barroso, or any of the other EU elites, considers how best to win back public support for the European project, he might consider the public sector pay cuts in Ireland, or the VAT raises in the UK, or any of the other cuts around Europe, and think about how to reform the image that Brussels is bloated and isolated from the harsh realities in EU member states. And then he might actually do something about it.

(i.e. publicly backing reform to wasteful EU policies like the CAP, ending some of the outrageously generous perks for lifetime EU civil servants, a pay freeze for those same civil servants, backing calls for an end to the travelling circus - the list can be made very long - further suggestions are welcome in the comments).

(Source: 2010 June budget, p.102, 2009 Treasury Statement on EU public finances, p.21. Note: Figures for 2007/08 financial year, and all financial years previously, are based on calendar year outturns)

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