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By Tim Montgomerie
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Tory MPs from the Fresh Start Group that is trying to reforge Britain's relationship with the EU (recently profiled by my colleague Matthew Barrett) have welcomed a report from the Open Europe think tank that argues that big reductions are possible in the EU budget.

Austerity may be stalking the whole of the continent but the EU recently demanded a 6.2% increase in its own resources. The summits, dinners and other talking shops mentioned earlier by Martin Callanan don't come cheap. More expensive is the escalating cost of EU staffers. "Expenditure on MEPs’ salaries and allowances has increased by 77.5 per cent since 2005 and cost £154million in 2012, excluding pensions and transitional allowances." The Daily Mail continues:

"Expenditure on Commission staff salaries has risen by 17.9 per cent since 2005 and now totals £1.7billion.  Spending on schooling for children of EU officials currently stands at £137million, and is set for an increase in 2013 of 6.8 per cent."

Open Europe's alternative budget (can't find it online) includes scrapping a range of quangoes and also the second European Parliament in Strasbourg which France demands we keep but serves no useful function and costs European taxpayers £146 million. The think tank estimates 30% or £33 billion could, in total, be cut from the EU's unaudited budget.

Andrea Leadsom of the Fresh Start Group urged the British Government to be "far more aggressive in [its] negotiating position" on the EU Budget.

George Eustice MP added*:

“For too long the EU has decided what it wants to spend first and then simply expected member states to give it the money it wants. It needs to learn to work to a budget, to cut its cloth accordingly and to accept that it will have a complete freeze in income for the foreseeable future.”

* Quoted in The Times.

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