The past week has nothing but been very interesting especially in British politics. Firstly, under the leadership of Prime Minister David Cameron who piloted the very controversial same sex marriage bill which was passed. Secondly, in securing for Britain an EU agreement on the budget for 2014-20 after lengthy talks in Brussels.
The headlines have been heralding this as a great feat never achieved before. Conservative Homes states “Cameron gets a good deal in Europe AFTER announcing an In/Out referendum. Could it be possible that these two things are connected?” Other headlines states “Cameron wins historic cut in EU’s spending and “At last we win better EU deal”. In the Guardian it insists that the deal is proof that the UK can triumph in Europe if we engage with other leaders and build alliances.
Is this a victory for David Cameron / UK?
The Prime Minister thinks so as he stated “I think the British public can be proud that we have cut the seven-year credit card limit for the EU the first time ever,” he said.
He also said he had fought off attempts to change the UK’s budget rebate, worth about 3.5bn Euros annually. He declared it “safe”.
However, the UK’s net contribution is actually likely to rise, because of a previous agreement negotiated by former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Years ago the UK and other big contributors agreed that more would have to be spent to fund the EU’s eastward enlargement.
The main allies to Mr Cameron in demanding cuts were the leaders of Germany, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden. The French, well they were somewhat stubborn, but the Prime Minister had threatened to veto a deal if other EU leaders supported a budget rise.
French President Francois Hollande, who had argued against big spending cuts, said it was a “good compromise”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also welcomed the deal, which represents a 3.3% reduction from the previous seven-year budget. “From my point of view this agreement is good and it is important because it gives us the ability to act in Europe in the coming years,” she said.
“It gives us the ability to plan for important projects and with a view to growth and employment”.
The agreement came after all-night talks.
But the question to be asked is what would happen if there is no agreement with the European Parliament? The 2013 EU budget would be rolled over into 2014, with a 2% rise to take account of inflation. That would leave much uncertainty about the EU’s long-term spending programmes. It would also mean the UK paying more than under Mr Cameron’s plan, as his calculation is based on 2011 spending.
The roll-over method, with the EU funded month-by-month, has been done before, but it is messy and seen as an admission of failure. It makes budgeting for things like research projects tricky.
As mentioned in my previous blog the challenge for the conservatives are immense, but as each day pass there is a sense of a man on a mission in the likes of Prime Minister David Cameron whether it will go in the party favour or not is another issue.
Finally, we may see an indicator whether these successes will play out at the ballot. The first test will be with the recently called Eastleigh by-election which has been triggered by the resignation of Chris Huhne, the ex-Lib Dem MP who admitted perverting the course of justice on Tuesday, and then we can sing the UK version of “Hail to the Chief”like the Americans for President Obama.
Sylbourne S B Sydial
February 10th 2013