Tories lead push to endorse budget agreement

11-Mar-2013 @ 16:0

Richard Ashworth Richard Ashworth

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Conservative MEPs will this week lead the drive to secure European Parliament backing for David Cameron's historic deal on the EU's long-term budget.

The Prime Minister confounded doubters when he emerged from a crunch meeting of the European Council in Brussels last month with a groundbreaking agreement.  He secured the backing of his fellow leaders for an agreement on long-term funding which would see EU spending fall for the first time in its history.

Under the Lisbon Treaty, however, the European Parliament  has 50 per cent co-decision powers within the Council on key issues - and some MEPs have vowed to scupper the deal.

This week the battle of wills moves to Strasbourg, where MEPs will begin a series of debates and votes on the Council deal.

Conservative MEPs last week took the initiative by tabling a motion to rally support for the agreement.

It notes the that the spending ceiling of the so-called Multi-annual Financial Framework is only one aspect of future budgeting and calls for efficient and effective spending which targets funds at the regions and states that need it most.

It also calls for measures to address urgently the failures that have led the Court of Auditors consistently to refuse the EU's accounts a clean bill of health because of concerns over potential mis-spending and lack of transparency. As well as demanding better management of the budget and spending, Conservatives will call for the budgeting period to run over five years or less instead of seven. This would more-closely match the cycle of European Parliament elections and Commission appointments so that each new administration could be held properly responsible for its own spending.

Richard Ashworth, leader of Britain's Conservative MEPs and lead negotiator on budget for Conservatives in the Parliament, said: "This was an outstanding deal by our Prime Minister and a fantastic achievement.  It is right for Britain and for Europe.

"Not only does in bring down overall spending by €34 billion - and €90 billion less than the Commission was demanding - but it also manages to boost key spending on competitiveness and research, the areas that will help us out of stagnation. It achieves that by at last diverting money away from agriculture spending, despite the opposition of France and its farmers.

"The question of what the money is spent on is just as important as the overall size of the budget - if not more so. We will be pushing to secure the backing across parliament which the Council agreement deserves. In doing so we will be pressing for a budget which points the EU's toward the global challenges of the present and future instead of the problems of the past.

"The national leaders who struck this agreement have each had to seek the approval of their people at the ballot box and will have to do so again. It is not for MEPs to contradict that mandate."

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