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Friday, June 01, 2007

bad timing

The wheels of Europe turn slow - and the Financial Perspective for 2007-13, which was first agreed in December 2005, has now finally had all of its numbers finally agreed by governments and eurocrats.

Which means it will be up for parliamentary ratification in the next parliamentary session according to a letter from the treasury to the Democracy Movement - who have been running a "stop the cheques" campaign.

That's less than ideal timing from the Government's point of view. Firstly, it will come during what Brown is promising will be an eye-wateringly tight public spending round (he wants the left to squeal, in order to counter the tories 'lurch to the left' stuff). Given that context, a big increase in what we spend on the EU will not go down too well with 100% of Labour backbenchers.

Secondly, it may well be in the middle of an intergovernmental conference on the new mini-constitution. What better reminder of where exactly Blair's approach of "going with the flow" in Europe has got us?

The debate as it goes through parliament should be a good opportunity to pick over some interesting issues. Why for example is Ireland still a net recipient, despite being the second richest member state? Why is Spain the biggest absolute recipient, given that it is no longer a poor country?

Why was it necessary to spend a billion euros on political sweeteners in order to (as Geoff Hoon put it) "generate a political consensus for an agreement" on the deal? Isn't there a better way to spend 864 billion euros than on the CAP, and a series of failing regional policies? Our take is here.

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