Britain vows to veto EU budget hike
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg reiterated Wednesday that Britain is prepared to veto a new European Union budget that increases spending in real terms.
Speaking after a meeting with French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault in Paris, Clegg said any increase in EU spending at a time of austerity would not be approved by Britain's parliament.
"We will continue to work to ensure reconciliation between the different positions in the EU," Clegg said.
"But it is very difficult to imagine the British parliament ratifying a deal that includes budget increases well above the rate of inflation.
"That would be very difficult for MPs facing constituents who are having to deal with much bigger cuts.
"We will continue to work for a deal but if there isn't one, there isn't one."
Ayrault's government shares Britain's desire to contain EU spending for the period 2014-20, the outlines of which are supposed to be thrashed out at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels next week.
But the premier said France did not want a budget row to overshadow a summit which, he said, should focus on stabilising the eurozone.
"It is important to give a sign to the people that Europe continues to advance. The first thing is to consolidate the euro and the great challenge is to create the conditions for a return of growth in Europe. If we do that, lots of problems, including that of the budget will be resolved."
Clegg added: "The circumstances in which this agreement is being sought are quite diffferent from previous negotiations," he said.
"We are in a period of unprecedented fiscal retrenchment, there is 25 percent unemployment in some countries in southern Europe and taxpayers in the north are in open revolt.
"It is completely different to when a few extra billions here and there did not register on people's radar.
"We had a major cardiac arrest back in 2008 and our economies are still in recovery."
© 2012 AFP