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MEPs set to lose battle over budget

Euro-MPs look set to lose a bitter battle over the euro-budget amid unbeatable pressure to curb their ambitions for a 6% rise in spending next year.

The European Parliament is going head-to-head with EU finance ministers in a Brussels showdown likely to end in a deal to hold any rise to a 2.9% tabled offered by governments.

Even that is too much for Prime Minister David Cameron, who originally argued that Europe should freeze spending in recognition of the austerity measures being endured in member states.

When that bid failed, the PM rallied 13 other member states behind a firm commitment not to offer anything above 2.9% in the talks. That effectively turned the 2.9% opening bid into a "take it or leave it" proposal.

But as negotiations get under way on Thursday to break the deadlock, MEPs were still muscle-flexing and insisting on the need for more money to fund expanded EU policies under the Lisbon Treaty.

Europe minister David Lidington has condemned the demand for a 6% rise as "outrageous", and Business Secretary Vince Cable warned recently of a "backlash" against Brussels unless EU spending reflected national belt-tightening.

MEPs were said to be resigned to losing their fight, but are still pressing for face-saving concessions to give them a greater long-term say in EU budget spending priorities.

A UK diplomat commented: "Getting a grip of EU spending is our top priority. At a time when many national governments around Europe, including ours at home, are taking tough steps to clamp down on dangerous deficits, it's completely unacceptable to be talking about large increases for the European budget.

"Others are continuing to argue for a budget above acceptable levels. Our objective over the next 24 hours is to nail down 2.9%."

The European Commission has backed the 6% rise in response to requests from MEPs, said a spokesman, adding: "Any extra money is not for Brussels, but for the member states - and that money will be spent on areas to boost economic growth and to strengthen the union's external borders, which are the main priorities of the 2011 draft budget."


From Belfast Telegraph