Conservatives resist “indisciplined” budget-grab by MEPs

Wednesday 23 October 2013, Strasbourg

8227395516_1d104a0315Conservative MEPs dug in today to resist a move in the European Parliament to hike up next year’s EU budget by more than a billion pounds.

They voted solidly against a proposal from the parliament’s Budget Committee to spend a massive €136 billion next year. The figure is €1.2 billion more than agreed by national government’s through the EU Council, and even €211 million more than the sum demanded by the EU Commission.

Despite this proposal to increase the total budget significantly, the committee also proposes to create extra spending power by eating into so-called “flexibility instruments” – the money set aside to cover emergencies and unforeseen expenditure.

Richard Ashworth, leader of Britain’s Conservative MEPs and budget negotiator for the group, is spearheading resistance to the costly bid. He said: “The EU Council was absolutely right to propose a reduced budget. In this difficult economic climate the people of Europe will expect no less.

“We must respond to tough times with resolve, not with indiscipline.”

He welcomed proposals to boost spending where it was really needed and said: “Top of the list must be jobs – particularly youth employment – and growth. Research and development, and the digital economy are surely the most urgent priorities. Tragic events in the Mediterranean have highlighted the pressing need for the EU to reinforce efforts to protect its borders, particularly through the Frontex agency.”

But he said those priorities must be met by redirecting spending, not by adding to the overall budget.

And he added: “Relying on the flexibility instrument to overcome shortfalls is equally unwise. They should be kept in reserve for genuinely unforeseen circumstances. To use them in this manner exposes the budget to risk.”