independent

Monday 21 April 2014

MEPs snub talks over EU budget

Greg Clark said the European Parliament was only interested in a budget deal that would 'massively increase' EU spending

Efforts to agree an EU budget for next year are in disarray after Euro-MPs refused to turn up for talks with Europe's finance ministers.

UK Financial Secretary to the Treasury Greg Clark, who flew to Brussels for the meeting, slammed the boycott by a European Parliament which is demanding a 6.8% increase in spending next year, despite the economic crisis.

"It is senseless that the only budget deal the European Parliament is interested in is one that massively increases EU spending - raiding Europe's taxpayers." he said.

"The UK has been very clear from the outset that the EU should not be demanding billions of euros more from taxpayers when everyone is making economies at home."

Talks collapsed last Friday when the European Commission - which also backs an inflation-busting increase - insisted it must have a "supplementary budget" of nine billion euros (£7.2 billion) to cover a shortfall this year.

As ministers gathered expecting to resume increasingly urgent efforts to break the deadlock, European Parliament president Martin Schulz said negotiators on behalf of the parliament would not attend "because there is no agreement among the member states about a supplementary budget for the current year".

He said: "These funds are needed for the European Union to respect its legal obligations, for example, to pay for bills incurred for goods, works and services delivered."

Mr Clark made clear that the UK would not be changing its stance: "We will continue to push, alongside other like-minded countries, for budget discipline just as we did last week."

He said a meeting would go ahead between the finance ministers and the European Commission but warned: "I will not approve any more money for the EU."

No deal can be done without MEPs, meaning a midnight deadline for a 2013 budget deal will be missed. However more talks are likely, not least because a lack of budget figures for next year makes a deal on a long-term-seven-year EU budget much tougher to agree when EU leaders gather to thrash out the details at the end of next week.

Press Association

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