Gerald Warner: Cameron's 'piece of paper' will be a blank cheque for EU

REJOICE! Rejoice! It is Dave's South Georgia moment. The greatest prime minister since Gordon Brown has won a stupendous victory over the European Union - in his own words, a "significant prize" - by restricting the increase in the EU budget to a paltry 2.9 per cent. Makes you proud to be British. Gawd bless yer, Mr Cameron, you're a toff! They don't like it up 'em…

This latest British "victory" bears some uncomfortable resemblance to such historic triumphs as the Charge of the Light Brigade and the three previous Afghan Wars.

The embarrassing aspect of it, which will have to be finessed by media masseurs in No 10, is that just eight days ago Dave was telling the press he would insist on the 2011 budget being subjected to "a cut or a freeze". Now he is claiming victory because he has secured an increase of 2.9 per cent. "It will have a direct impact on the pocket of the UK taxpayer," he claimed. That is correct: it will increase his contribution to the EU by 450 million.

By what rationale does that constitute "a cut or a freeze"? Or cause for satisfaction? Cameron would have us believe his U-turn, executed over a period of five days, represents a victory because it has prevented the EU increasing its budget by 6 per cent. Like a small boy reporting a win at conkers to his mother, Dave parroted excitedly: "They've given their word - 2.9 per cent and no further. That's the word they've all given. That's the word I've given." Would that be a cast-iron guarantee, Dave?

Apart from the fact that a 2.9 per cent increase in the EU budget, when every other fiscal institution is tightening its belt, is immoral and unacceptable, Dave knows that this guarantee is no guarantee at all. He might as well have imitated Neville Chamberlain in brandishing a Savoy luncheon bill at the assembled press.

Under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty (the pernicious compact over which Dave reneged on a referendum) the new budget has to be agreed by the European Parliament as well as the Council of Ministers - the same parliament that set the 6 per cent target.

Harmonisation of the Council's objectives and the Parliament's ambitions - the process known as "conciliation" in the weasel vocabulary of the Eurocrats - will produce a compromise figure far above 2.9 per cent. In the words of Martin Schulz, leader of the Social Democrat MEPs: "The negotiations have barely begun - it is not for Mr Cameron to announce their conclusion. The figures he is talking about bear little relation to reality. He is setting himself up for a fall."

Six months into his premiership, the EU wide boys have already taken the measure of Dave as a hollow man, full of wind and what's-it. It is a pity a larger proportion of the British electorate did not share that insight.An average compromise figure between 2.9 and 6 per cent would be 4.5 per cent, which would add more than half a billion - 660m - to Britain's contribution. That is on top of the almost 60 per cent increase in the UK share of Danegeld this year, as a consequence of EU enlargement and the cut in our rebate agreed by Gordon Brown, following the example of Tony Blair.

Herr Schulz has plans for a further rebate reduction to zero, as a contribution to "cutting" the wider EU budget. If it is cut in the fashion negotiated by Dave last week, heaven help us.

Last November, for the 15th year in succession, the European Court of Auditors refused to sign off the EU's accounts, on the usual grounds: widespread fraud and mismanagement. Yet the EU's legitimate expenditure is as scandalous as any of its frauds. If, in the current economic climate, you are in the process of downgrading the family diet from Spam to Pedigree Chum, you might be interested to note some of the heart-warming projects on which the EU is spending part of the 103bn contributed by British taxpayers over the period 2007-13, which exceeds by 57bn any reciprocal benefits.

The EU has doled out 400,000 to encourage children to draw portraits of one another; 850,000 for a "gender equal" wood design centre; 173,000 towards a luxury golf resort in Portugal (since the rich are feeling the pinch too) and 2,500 for the Bavarian hunting estate of the Porsche chairman; even a grant to a Swedish farmer to grow cannabis.

Yet Britons are facing financial ruin. Does Dave's record suggest he will be able - or willing - to resist impending demands for Britain to help bail out Eurozone basket cases? Last week Dave described himself as a Eurosceptic. With Eurosceptics like that, who needs Ken Clarke?

Back to the top of the page