Many of my constituents have corresponded with me recently about the important EU Budget negotiations that took place at the European Council on 22-23 November 2012. The Government’s position is very simple: we cannot increase spending in the EU when we continue to tighten our belts at home.
These negotiations have been particularly tough because of the hard economic times which are being felt across Europe as well as in the UK. Unfortunately, the Council ended without agreement on the future of the EU Budget because the proposal on the table was unacceptable to the British Government but also to a number of other Member States.
It is clear that David Cameron took a sensible and tough approach to EU spending. I know that many of my constituents wish to see a cut in the UK’s contribution to the EU. However, we have to negotiate with other Member States.
Our Prime Minister has openly requested a freeze in EU spending. At the summit he rejected an attempt to commit British taxpayers to real terms increases and insisted on protecting the UK rebate which reflects the fact that the UK has a smaller agricultural sector than other EU nations.
The Prime Minister has sent a very clear signal – British taxpayers expect this Government to work hard to secure the best deal. It is clear to me that at a time when the Government is making difficult decisions at home it would be quite wrong to increase spending in Europe.
Conservative MPs have ensured that significant progress is made in protecting Britain’s interests in Europe. We have introduced a Referendum Lock, ended UK participation in EU bailouts and vetoed a new EU fiscal treaty. In contrast, under a Labour Government, Ministers signed off bigger EU budgets and gave away £7 billion of our rebate.
European leaders will reconvene to attempt to negotiate an agreement in the New Year. The Prime Minister has made it clear that he will listen to Parliament and is, therefore, prepared to veto a budget which does not preserve Britain’s rebate in full or goes above a real terms freeze. I can assure you that Ministers will continue to work constructively to get the best possible deal for Britain. However, this will not be a deal at any cost.