Yesterday, the Coalition Government endured its first major defeat in the House of Commons, as Tory eurosceptics voted with Labour members to demand that the Government seeks a real terms cut in EU expenditure when negotiating their long-term spending plans with other EU states. While the vote is non-binding (David Cameron will still seek a real-terms freeze), it displays a growing awareness by the political establishment that the British public expect European government to share the austerity that they have been inflicting on its national governments.
In a time of spending cuts equating to as much as 20%, which are inflicted on essential as well as non-essential services, it seems absurd that the largely low-priority spending conducted by the inefficient machinery of the European Union remains untouched. In light of this, it seems sensible to reassess the purpose and scope of spending by Europe- and we should have the aim of cutting €40,000,000,000 out of its €114,000,000,000 annual budget. Here’s how:
The one key area of expenditure that should remain untouched is the Common Agricultural Policy. Though it certainly doesn’t seem like it at the supermarket checkout, our food prices remain artificially low due to the subsidies placed on food production. Were this to be changed, we’d notice a sharp rise in prices that would be unaffordable for many of the poorest in society. However, agriculture spending outside of the CAP is not required, and 5 billion euros can be saved by its elimination(although it would be possible to reduce Britain’s net contributions).
European expenditure on cultural festivals, citizenship schemes and contributions to administrative costs of membership applications can be eliminated entirely- saving seven billion euros over the budget term. The 6.8 billion euro administration budget could easily be cut by 25% without citizens noticing anything, and foreign aid should be the sole responsibility of national governments, rather than channeling it inefficiently through Brussels. The same applies to the handful of education projects sponsored by various agencies.
Regional aid accounts for 32% of the EU budget. The arguments for distribution of support to countries like Greece are relatively sound. But France and Germany are given a combined total of over 6.5 billion per year in regional aid, which seems difficult to justify. By limiting the aid distributed to richer states,and implementing modest reductions in aid given elsewhere, 105 billion euros can be saved over seven years.
Once these reductions have been put into effect, the contributions made, and the budget deficits run, by each nation can be reduced accordingly. Britain’s national debt will be £33,000,000,000 less as a result, saving future governments as much as £1,000,000,000 per year in interest payments, in addition to immediate cash savings six times that size. Were this to be done, it would be that bit harder to advocate withdrawal from the EU.