Compare and contrast: An austerity budget in the UK; EU demands an increase for 2012.
• Chancellor George Osborne delivered a budget that told the story of where we are financially at the moment. I am not here to debate its merits or its failings, I merely point out the strong emphasis on fiscal belt tightening that it contained. Clearly, there is a modicum of realism as to the current state of the economy and the need to make savings and cut costs.
Less than 24 hours later, MEPs in Brussels debated the basic guidelines for preparing the EU’s 2012 budget.
They are pushing for an increase.
What was more alarming than the blatant head-in-the-sand approach they are adopting towards the financial crisis was that the report we were debating was centred around justifying an increase in the budget on the basis that the Europe 2020 strategy will take us out of the current financial crisis.
This simply lacks all credibility. When we look back at the complete and abject failure of the Lisbon Strategy MEPs must be living in cloud-cuckoo land if they are hoping this strategy will pull us out of the mess.
Like an impertinent teenager trying to get their way at all costs, the European Commission and Parliament are stamping their collective feet and threatening that limiting the level of the EU budget will have a detrimental effect on European solidarity and the pace of economic development in member states.
As I said in my speech, this argument is facile and displays an overwhelming ignorance about the impact of the crisis upon European citizens. You cannot throw tantrums or bully people with threats of economic hardship in order to get your way.
We should also remember that the EU has a very dubious record when it comes to spending money correctly. It was noteworthy that the report chose to ignore the observations made by the Court of Auditors in their annual reports completely. Let us remember that Court reports are the only information available regarding the integrity and efficiency with which EU funds have been spent in the past.
The Tories are demanding a budget freeze, effectively a call for business as usual. UKIP are asking for not a freeze but a significant reduction of the Budget for 2012.