SNP MEP Welcomes Tory Awakening On EU Budget

25 August 2009
SNP Member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith has today (Tuesday) criticised Tory spin over the EU budget as misleading, behind the times and missing the point.

Smith commented on coverage in various media today in reaction to a Conservative press release highlighting UK Treasury figures that the UK gross contribution to the EU budget will rise sharply next year, a month after the figures were published by the UK Treasury and some three and a half years after the negotiations concluded in Brussels.

Smith was, in 2005,an alternate member of the Committee that deliberated on the budget, (the snappily entitled Temporary Committee on the Policy Challenges and Budgetary Means of the Enlarged European Union), and at the time raised concerns about the deal the UK Treasury and Tony Blair were pushing for, as the implications for Scotland were stark in terms of losses to Structural Funds as well as Barnett Consequentials.

Smith has also criticised the Tory headlines, willingly reproduced by some sections of the media, as only seeing one side of the EU equation, and deliberately missing the massive benefits that accrue to Scotland and the UK from EU membership.

Smith said:

"These numbers should come as no surprise to anyone and the London Tory mock horror at them demonstrates their own ignorance more than anything else. I well remember the long, dark winter of 2005 and the brain-numbing deliberations of the 'dosh committee' and warned repeatedly, at the time, that the deal on the table was not the deal an independent Scotland would have won.

"It saddens me that the Tory lines have, all too familiarly, only looked at the cost of the EU, and ignored the fact that massive, incalculable benefits accrue to every man, woman and child in Scotland from EU membership. We are part of the single market, bringing jobs and prosperity; we can travel, live, study, work and retire anywhere from the Algarve to the Arctic Circle; we have not had a war on EEC, EC or EU soil and we have seen our area of peace and prosperity extend to countries that as recently as 20 years ago had Soviet tanks on their streets. The EU is not all good to be sure, but it is not a bad deal either and to only look at the gross cost of membership misses the point entirely.

"Besides, the UK style of EU engagement is the real problem. The obsession with the UK rebate actually creates a block to Scots organisations bidding for EU funding and accessing the EU programmes. We often lament the fact we are poor at accessing the EU programmes but in fact the UK rebate is largely to blame. Denmark, Ireland, Finland, Sweden and many others take a different attitude and do better because they work the principle, as do I, that the EU contribution should be more or less balanced by the money coming back on the different budget lines. So they encourage their universities, companies, students, farmers, local authorities and everyone else to be all over every EU budget, where the UK too often stands aloof.

"Even at the time the smaller member states were able to use their position at the top table to access funds of priority to them (reproduced at note 2), where the UK fixation was all about the Treasury control of the rebate. Scotland would do things differently, and better."

NOTES:

1. The Treasury paper giving the official statistics can be found at page 25 of: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/european_community_finances_2009.pdf

2. One of Smith's many press releases from the period can be found at: http://www.alynsmith.eu/news/338/67/SNP-Seeks-Guarantees-On-Brown-s-EU-Budget-Squeeze.html