Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Dutch EU cuts pledge leads way for Tories

All the major parties competing in the forthcoming Dutch general election are supporting a multi-billion euro cut to the country's payments into the EU budget.

Ahead of the Dutch vote on 9 June, both the likely fourth-placed VVD and front-running CDA parties propose bringing the contribution paid by the Netherlands into line per capita with those of France and Germany.

According to EUobserver, the result would be Dutch payments to the EU being cut by around half from their current annual level of €5.3 billion (£4.6bn).

Other Dutch election front-runners, the centre-left PvdA and the Freedom Party, also support a cut.

UK contribution

According to the recent Budget documents, last year Britain handed over £6.4bn (net) to the EU and in the coming year, at a time when our next government is likely to be cutting public services towards reigning in our deficit, that net amount is due to rise to £7.6bn.

This is even more than the £6bn involved in the proposed rise in National Insurance contributions that caused such a huge fuss at the start of this general election campaign.

And so far other 'big ticket' items of government spending like the Trident nuclear deterrent and the ID cards scheme have all featured in debates about cuts.

But at no point on the campaign trail has a politician or journalist questioned the scale of money Britain will next year alone flush on the EU and what we're getting for those billions.

This is especially odd since auditors have not been able to fully approve the EU's accounts for an unjustifiable 14 years in a row and there are regular reports detailing extraordinary levels of waste and fraud.

So not even auditors can fully explain where the billions countries pay to the EU actually end up.

Vote winner

The move by leading Dutch political parties to cut the amount of public money the country wastes on the EU has proved immensely popular, with a survey showing 63% of voters support the idea.

So not just would Britain be far from alone or isolated in Europe in demanding a cut to the amount of public money the EU consumes, but the news also shows that - for the British party that made a similar pledge - the policy is likely to be a big vote-winner.

Not surprising, since such a move would show that party to be serious about the tricky task of tackling national debt levels by chopping waste and preserving key public services.

Ahead of tomorrow's 'foreign affairs' TV debate between the party leaders, during which David Cameron must produce some striking ideas to grab support and win back lost ground, now is the perfect time for the Conservatives to champion EU cuts.

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