Ministers push for better accounting

Britain refused to sign off the European Union’s accounts yesterday in a protest against budget mismanagement.

Chancellor George Osborne joined forces with Dutch and Swedish counterparts in a symbolic gesture after 17 years in which EU auditors refused to give the EU’s annual spending plans a clean bill of health.

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The three voted formally against signing off the 2010 EU budget, and issued a joint statement declaring: “We are calling for important and urgent improvements to the quality of EU financial management.”

It is the first time the UK has withheld its vote of approval – but the act is symbolic as the annual procedure to “discharge” the budget does not affect the actual accounts or sums already spent in the relevant year.