One rule for the UK, another for the EU
There is a motion to be debated in the House of Commons, tabled by Labour, with an amendment submitted by Conservative MP Mark Reckless on the subject of the EU budget
The recent focus on the the EU Budget is warranted, not just because of the politics it might represent, but because of the substance:
The EU wants the UK to pay an extra £1.4 billion per year to be a member. This is on top of the UK's £19.2 billion direct gross contribution per year (£10.8 billion net) as well as the costs that EU regulations and other provisions cost the UK.
Last week in Parliament, Lord Vinson asked the Government how the already substantial rise in the UK's net annual contributions to the EU budget to over £10 billion per annum – double what it was in 2006 - related to public sector cuts in other areas. The response he got, from the Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon), was that there were “unacceptable increases in the annual EU budget and to changes to the calculation of the UK abatement”.
Unacceptable indeed. But what about the effect of the increase? Lord Pearson put it into figures:
“Do[es] the Government accept that £10 billion per annum equates to the annual salaries of 91,320 nurses being thrown away down the Brussels drain-or policemen, soldiers, or any other public servants at £30,000 per annum? Does this Question not remind us that there is no such thing as EU aid to the United Kingdom? For every pound that Brussels sends us, we have sent them £2.20.”
This is not value for money; this is not what the UK signed up to. In fact, using figures from respective association and union bodies, this £1.4 billion per year represents over 66,000 more nurses, over 60,000 more police officers or nearly 65,000 more teachers per year. If we used the £10 billion figure – the total increase asked for - it represents a ridiculous amount of public servants and is a figure that would cover all the UK's annual public spending on trains and still leave nearly £3 billion left over for other things (including a tax cut).
It's no wonder Labour and some sensible Conservatives have called on the Government to cut the budget!
However, the Conservatives have also pointed out the flaws to the system itself. Last Friday Douglas Carswell introduced his Private Members Bill to repeal the European Communities Act (1972). In it he pointed out that Britain has paid more into the EU budget than she has received back in every year bar one since we joined. It is not just that we pay; our membership fee for being part of the club has risen by 70% within the past three years. In 2009, our net contribution to the Brussels budget was £5.3 billion; in 2010, it rose to £9.2 billion, and our gross contribution is nearly £20 billion.
Carswell was supported by Philip Hollobone, Edward Leigh and Steve Baker, MPs who spoke of the democratic deficit that exists with no one in the UK under the age of 55 having had the vote on its relationship with Europe and the vast and costly changes that have happened since the vote in 1975.
However, the Beast of Brussels is one that keeps on taking and taking. As Lord Vinson also pointed out, the UK is still obliged to send £5 billion per year to the EU for its structural funds – funds that are recycled from wealth member states into into other wealthy regions of Europe – and that this money would help to create over 250,000 badly needed jobs, if invested in the UK. To this even the Government's spokesman, Lord Sassoon, agreed and said that this recycling was “absurd” and is “one of the many issues that need to be addressed”.
Yet, thankfully, there is a motion debated in the House of Commons, tabled by Labour, with an amendment submitted by Conservative MP Mark Reckless, that calls for a real-terms cut in the EU budget and “to strengthen its stance so that the next MFF is reduced in real terms”.
Will your MP listen? Armed with the knowledge that the Government is preaching austerity in the UK yet Brussels wants to binge on more taxpayer funds, isn't it time for real change?
If you feel that the proposed increases are unacceptable, email your MP (click here) or call them on 0207 219 3000.
Rory Broomfield is Deputy Director of The Freedom Association. He tweets @rorybroomfield
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