UK Chancellor George Osborne yesterday refused to sign off the EU budget for 2009 in a routine vote in Brussels. This was a purely symbolic - but still important - gesture to protest wasteful spending in the EU. A spokesperson for the Treasury said that
The Chancellor has put Europe on notice that we can't afford not to put Europe's house in order.The UK government is talking up EU budget reform, which can come back and bite them if they fail to deliver (remember the budget freeze promised by Cameron, which sort of back-fired?), but is also showing political will to get something done. That's a good sign.
Osborne was joined by Sweden and the Netherlands in abstaining in the vote. The reason for the Dutch absention was, as the country's Finance Ministry bluntly put it, that "€2 billion has disappeared" from the EU budget, which strikes us as a pretty valid reason.
Last year only the Netherlands abstained from the budget vote, meaning that we're looking at progress this year.
With this rate, all member states will refuse to sign off the annual budget by 2022 or 2016 (depending on how optimistically you count).
We're not exactly holding our breath though.