UK wants to smash Barosso’s piggy bank
All the EU national leaders are in the room with Presidents Herman Van Rompuy and José Manuel Barosso and have been in there since 11am British time. If it all collapses it could be Angela Merkel who decides there’s not enough sign of fast progress. It is thought she’s less than impressed with Van Rompuy’s dance of the seven veils drawn-out process and thinks last night’s revised budget should have moved things on a lot more than it did.
Britain feels there’s a painless (in national interest terms) way to settle this whole budget business. We’re 50bn euros adrift from what we think is our target budget total in a perfect world. We could settle for half of that, say, a cut of about 25bn euros in the payments total, by going for the European Commission’s pet projects and overheads. Britain would like to fillet the Connecting Europe budget for cross-border transport/energy/broadband links that has been Barosso’s pet project and which was set to quadruple in EU plans. Dig into that in a big way and add on the administration savings that David Cameron presented to an unhappy President Barosso yesterday and you could be at something around 25bn euros relatively quickly.
The European Commission would point out that huge work has gone into the “connections” projects and they are exactly the sort of thing the EU should be doing to add to economic growth and modernise spending. As for the admin costs defence, I mentioned that earlier. The UK view is that despite talk of the two of them being at each other’s throats over the years, President Van R has, on this one, allowed himself to get too close to President B.
It was a bit of a surprise to the UK to hear that at its “confessional” yesterday morning with the European Council President Van Rompuy, the man who must impartially broker the deal, there sitting next to him on the same side of the table was a man who looks to the UK like an interested party: European Commission President Jose Manuel Barosso. President Van R, the UK team feels, needs to turn on his Brussels partner to get the big deal. If he doesn’t, it won’t happen.