Cable warns over EU budget backlash
Business Secretary Vince Cable has warned of a looming backlash against Brussels unless the EU budget is cut in line with national Government belt-tightening.
He told MEPs - who are expected to push for an increase of at least 6% in spending next year - that Britain expects to see discipline in the use of EU taxpayers' money in the wake of an economic crisis.
EU finance ministers have already reduced a European Commission proposal for a 6% rise next year to 2.9%, with Chancellor George Osborne outvoted in demanding a spending freeze.
But MEPs are likely to throw down the gauntlet by reinstating higher spending plans in November - something Mr Cable insisted would go down badly with the public, and not just in the UK.
He also signalled a tough Government stand in forthcoming negotiations on the future of Britain's EU budget rebate, and on any effort to remove the UK opt-out from the EU's 48-hour maximum working week.
But Mr Cable also insisted that the coalition Government is "positively engaged" on the issues that matter - free trade, an end to nationalism and protectionism, and flexible labour markets as the basis for restoring jobs and growth across Europe.
"I am anxious that these issues should not be drowned out by a row over the European budget," said Mr Cable.
"I have to sound the alarm here: at a time when national governments, including mine, are having to make very painful cuts in public spending, no one can understand why the European budget is not being subjected to the same discipline.
"There is a big backlash on the way, not only in the UK."
He urged MEPs: "Can I plead with you to tackle this issue sensibly? Any sense that the European Parliament and European Commission are not acutely sensitive to this issue will be seriously damaging."