Monday, November 1, 2010

Compare and contrast

Apologies for along absence, caused by a nasty bout of cold, which prevented me from attending a Mass of Reparation for those Slovenes and others murdered by the Communists in Yugoslavia in 1945 after they had been handed over by the Western allies. More on that and other matters, as they say, later.

I would, in the meantime, call attention to an interesting discrepancy between the statement made by the Boy-King of the Conservative Party who is, by some freak of historical irony, our Prime Minister about the European Council that ended on Friday and the Conclusions produced by that Council. (Here is the discussion in the Commons, in which Cameron is seen as floundering somewhat.)

Most of his statement is taken up by the question of the rise in the EU Budget for 2011 and subsequent years. To be fair, his conclusions are remarkably vague:
So before the Council started we began building an alliance to take a difference approach and insist on 2.9 per cent.

I made phone calls to my counterparts in, Sweden, France and Germany amongst others and then continued to press the case during the Council. Twelve other Heads of Government agreed with me. We issued a joint letter which makes clear that a 6% increase is – and I quote – “especially unacceptable at a time when we are having to take difficult decisions at national level to control public expenditure”.

Furthermore, the joint letter goes on to say that “we are clear that we cannot accept any more than” the 2.9% increase being proposed by the Council.

Mr Speaker, let me explain what this means. Either the Council and Parliament now have to agree to 2.9 per cent or there will be deadlock, in which case the EU will have to live on a repeat of last year’s budget settlement handed out in twelfths over the next twelve months an outcome we’d be perfectly content with.
With a great deal of self-satisfaction he says:
Mr Speaker, if you look at the published Conclusions, language on the budget formed a very prominent part, even though it was never originally on the agenda.

I do think this is an important step forward.
Even that would be a matter of opinion but, in any case, he is, once again, giving hostages to fortune. For the Budget does not occupy much or, indeed, any space in the published Conclusions. There is a great deal of discussion of the matter of Economic Governance, on which Mr Cameron is even vaguer than on the subject of the Budget. It is in connection with that little problem that the Conclusions state:
Heads of State or Government stressed that, at the same time as fiscal discipline is reinforced in the European Union, it is essential that the European Union budget and the forthcoming Multi-annual Financial Framework reflect the consolidation efforts being made by Member States to bring deficit and debt onto a more sustainable path. Respecting the role of the different institutions and the need to meet Europe's objectives, the European Council will discuss at its next meeting how to ensure that spending at the European level can make an appropriate contribution to this work.
Section II is about the Seoul G20 Summit, Section III is on the Cancun Conference on Climate Change and, apparently, the British Government would like to see binind UN legislation, according to the PM's statement. A couple of sentences about Summits with Third Countries and .... that's it. Budget? What Budget? Well, I did point out that it was not on the Agenda and, in any case, was not for the European Council to discuss.

How shocking that the Prime Minister should be misleading Parliament in this way.

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