Lib Dem MEPs let down British taxpayers
Posted, June 13, 2012 @ 17:00
Liberal Democrat MEPs stand accused of failing to stand up for British taxpayers today after a series of key votes on the European Union's long-term budget.
Conservative leader Richard Ashworth delivered a scathing criticism of his opponents after they failed to back a Tory motion which would have both reined in EU spending over the next seven years and protected Britain's annual rebate from Brussels.
Instead they voted alongside their colleagues in the Alliance of Liberal Democrats in Europe to push through a motion calling for a "robust" budget to deliver the EU's "political goals". The resolution they supported also demanded the introduction of "own resources" taxes such as the damaging Financial Transactions Tax and an end to "corrective mechanisms" such as Britain's hard-won rebate.
Mr Ashworth, Conservative MEP for the South East, said: "These MEPs should be required to explain to the British public why they are backing plans for still more of their money to be sent to Europe - despite all of the tough spending decisions being taken back in the UK. They should also tell us why they are supporting the demands of other countries to take away Britain's all-important rebate - worth £2.7 billion a year to British taxpayers.
"Furthermore, they should be called to account for their eventual support for a European Financial Transactions Tax - a measure which has rightly been called an attack on the City of London and which would cost Britain thousands of jobs and a harm our prosperity."
The Conservative resolution was tabled in advance of a key debate on the Multi-Annual Financial Framework, the EU's seven-year budget blueprint to the year 2020.
The resolution, which was voted down by Lib Dem MEPs, highlighted the severity of the current economic crisis and reminded the EU that its own spending cannot be exempt from the considerable efforts in individual member states to make savings. It called for a seven-year real-terms freeze in spending.
It warned the EU's leaders they would lose all support and confidence from Europe's citizens if they did not stop looking to spend more. Instead, it insisted, they must start spending more efficiently.
Crucially, it warned the EU against plans to raise its own finances directly - through "own-resources" taxation such as a European VAT or Financial Transaction Tax - and it insisted on the retention of Britain's rebate.
During the debate in Strasbourg, Mr Ashworth said: "Jobs and growth are the most urgent priorities of the European Union, This MFF, an investment budget, presents us with a valuable opportunity to make a vital contribution to resolving the European financial crisis.
"We welcome investment in research and development, in the single market and in cross-border infrastructure.
"However, the budget must be able to demonstrate real added value. Too many of the traditional spends of the past budget clearly do not. Quantity of spend can never be a substitute for quality of spend.
"We find the proposed FTT unacceptable... as is the abolition of rebates.
"The house would be mistaken if it were to assume that we could increase the size of the budget at a time when all the rest of Europe is experiencing austerity, is imposing tough financial disciplines and is enduring hard times."
After the debate, he said: "Conservative MEPs will continue fighting for British taxpayers and doing all we can to make the EU spend better instead of spending more. Why won't LIb Dem MEPs do the same?"