This is the second instalment of a two-part series looking at the EU Budget. Click here to read the initial instalment, published yesterday.
Charles Crawford served in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for 28 years, latterly as British Ambassador in Sarajevo, Belgrade and Warsaw. He left the FCO in 2007 and was on the Conservative Party candidates' list prior to this year's general election. He blogs here.
Fascinating though all this is, isn’t it insane that EU budgets are going up when there is such a squeeze on national public spending across Europe? How can the UK stop that?
As previously explained, within a Financial Perspective period annual EU budgets are expected to rise, as actual planned spending by the Getters rises. The significance of what David Cameron achieved in Brussels at the October European Council was twofold.
First, by nimble diplomacy he held back what otherwise would have been a notably larger annual annual increase - remember that the UK alone cannot block any annual increase, so we need to muster a blocking minority to do so.
Second (and more important), the UK got into the Council Conclusions a key sentence looking ahead to the next major Financial Perspective negotiations:
Heads of State or Government stressed that, at the same time as fiscal discipline is reinforced in the European Union, it is essential that the European Union budget and the forthcoming Multi-annual Financial Framework reflect the consolidation efforts being made by Member States to bring deficits and debt onto a more sustainable path.
Translated into English, this means that it makes no sense for the European Union to expect a generous deal over the next Budget period (ie up to 2020) - the next Budget settlement will have to reflect the fact that many member states are having to make serious public spending cuts at home.
This is, of course, not the same as saying that the EU budget will have to be cut in real or nominal terms - there would have been no consensus for that statement. But it lays down an important political marker, which creates a context for a stern British position as and when needed.
Keep an eye open for the language in the December Council Conclusions, when London again will press for language about how the European Union must support member states' attempts at financial "consolidation".