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Friday, June 10, 2011

Is your MEP in favour of EU taxes?

One of the main effects of the Lisbon Treaty was that MEPs were given a lot more power over EU decision-making, at the expense of national governments and parliaments (since the Treaty also transferred substantial powers away from member states, and therefore national parliaments.) This was an element of the Treaty which governments clearly didn't think through properly. In practice, the European Parliament has its own logic, its own cycle and its own agenda, which doesn't really correspond to public opinion in member states. In short, to give so much power to cheerleaders of further EU integration at a time when further EU integration is the last thing most citizens want was a pretty silly idea.

National governments are now paying the price.

If you want a clear example, consider MEPs' vote this week on the shape and size of the EU's next long-term budget (likely to run between 2014 and 2020). The Lisbon Treaty gave MEPs full co-decision powers over the long-term budget, meaning an effective veto over anything national governments decide.

In the vote this week, MEPs voted 468 against 134 (with 54 abstentions) for the 'big three', defying what many national governments had called for:
  • An increase of at least 5% to the EU budget over its 2013 level
  • A direct EU tax to fund the EU budget
  • A phasing out of all national rebates, including the UK's.
The phasing out of the rebate is politically complicated as it pits net contributors that have a rebate from the EU budget (such as the UK) versus the net contributors without a rebate (such as Denmark and France), so let's leave this one for a sec. However on the first two, you'd be hard pressed to find support amongst citizens (at least in those states that have to cough up) for any increase to the EU budget or an EU tax (for a whole range of reasons). As we've repeated so many times that it's getting old, MEPs are doing themselves no favours by constantly churning out their demands for more - ranting like this is hardly going to score them many points with citizens either. Their biggest hurdle, we suspect, will be Germany (which will contribute the most to the EU budget by far post-2014).

So, how did the UK MEPs vote? The table at the bottom gives a break-down of their votes on key amendments.

From the looks of it, Lib Dem and Labour MEPs voted in favour of an EU tax, while Lib Dem MEPs seem to have voted against an amendment calling for national rebates to be maintained. So if Lib Dem MEPs had their way, both the UK's gross contribution (under the 5% increase) and its net contribution (because the rebate would be scrapped) would increase pretty significantly.

We also note that the Lib Dems stated in their election manifesto for the European elections in 2009 that
"We do not see the need, in the current context, for any significant growth in the budget’s size, nor the abolition of the British rebate."
The Lib Dems' voting record this week doesn't suggest that they honoured this pledge - or are we missing something (i.e. was there any other amendment to the same effect that they voted for instead?).

Anyway, check out the table to see how your MEP voted (click to enlarge).


IanT said...

Interesting that you say 'see how your MEP voted' I don't even know who is my MEP and I doubt that most people in my so-called euro constituency know... or more to the point do we even care...?

Actually I think they should have asked for a 17% or 38% increase and let's encourage them to do so... the faster and more they accelerate spending the quicker the kill the golden goose and bring their downfall

Gordon said...

What happened to Daniel Hannon, why did he not vote. He normally has a great deal to say for himself.

Anonymous said...

IanT makes a very good point! The bigger the shock, the sooner Joe Public is likely to wake up!

Sheona said...

A very informative voting table. Having just moved to a new constituency, I can now look forward to making that LibDem MEP suffer at any meeting he shows his face at.

Aigio said...

Downfall is imminent.. So what is the point of all this?

The shock doctrine will materialize very soon..

MikeH said...

Have fired an email off to Baroness Ludford. Will be interesting to hear how she justifies such extraordinary irresponsibility with scarce public money, not to mention blatantly contradicting Lib Dem and Coalition policy. Hardly imagine many Londoners would support how she voted.