By Tim Montgomerie
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Last week a group of Tory MPs began work on a campaign to encourage the Government to harden its stance on the EU budget. Ed Balls and Douglas Alexander have also now seized on the issue in an intervention in The Times overnight.
The Tory MPs have now agreed on a motion to be debated in the Commons on Wednesday (contrary to other reports there were never rival motions). The motion in the name of Mark Reckless MP "calls on the Government to strengthen its stance so that the next MSF* is reduced in real terms".
Other signatories to the motion are Zac Goldsmith, John Redwood, Sarah Wollaston, Bill Cash and Mark Pritchard. Mark Pritchard told ConHome:
"This amendment should strengthen the government's negotiating hand at the EU Summit on 22nd November. At a time of restraint at home it would anger people up and down the country to increase the EU Budget still further – especially when the EU is so wasteful, inefficient, and profligate."
(* Multi-annual Financial Framework)
In the article below Mark Reckless explains what he is trying to achieve:
MARK RECKLESS MP:
We Can't Afford Inflationary Increase in EU Budget
Follow Mark on Twitter.
"Last week we learnt that the UK's national income has dropped by 13% over the past five years. Domestic government departments are having to make savings of a fifth because we can't carry on borrowing one out of every five pounds we spend.
It therefore beggars belief that Parliament is being asked to promise the EU an inflationary increase in its budget for every year through to 2020 – to exempt the EU entirely from the financial pressures facing families and governments across Europe. We are even asked in the same government motion to praise decisions being taken by “countries across Europe to … stimulate economic growth”.
That is why I and other Conservative colleagues are supporting an amendment to say that there must be at least some constraint on EU spending. Although many of us would wish to see a substantial reduction in EU spending, at least in line with cuts at home, today we are only asking the government to strengthen its stance so that there is some real terms reduction in the EU budget.
Some real terms reduction is surely not an unachievable or excessively radical goal, given the extent to which we and other EU countries are making less palatable cuts at home.
Parliament must also set the negotiating position because any budget settlement will require us to pass primary legislation. That is because the EU is seeking to agree its 'Multi-annual Financial Framework' (MFF) for 2014-20.
Unlike the annual EU Budget an MFF requires both unanimity among member states and specific legislative sanction in the UK. If MPs are not willing to sanction inflationary increases through to 2020, then we must make that clear to the government before it signs up to something it would not be able to deliver.
At my last constituency surgery I saw a number of police officers who wanted to speak to me about their terms and conditions and police pay. I was asked to explain why we are freezing their pay, yet we are giving inflationary increases to benefit claimants. Even though I spoke about our wanting to protect the poorest in society, it was not an easy conversation. It is certainly not one I want to repeat defending the EU budget."