Coffee House

EU Budget: Beware the European Parliament’s veto power

8 February 2013

4:29 PM

8 February 2013

4:29 PM

James Forsyth seems as happy as any Tory today, cheered by David Cameron’s prowess in the EU Budget negotiations. Even better for Cameron, he says, is the idea that the European Parliament might veto the deal in a secret vote: this is ‘absurd,’ just a rumour. Even if it does happen, it will only point up how spendthrift the EU really is. All good for Cameron.

Except from where I’m sitting in the European Council press room, it doesn’t look at all absurd that the parliament might veto Cameron’s ‘victory’ budget deal. Martin Schulz, the unpleasant German socialist president of the European Parliament, is looking for a fight on this. And the new powers the Lisbon Treaty gives the parliament over the budget means Schulz can do just that.


He was at the council last night, warning the leaders of the member states not to cut the budget.  More to the point, he says he has done a count of the political groups at the parliament, and they tell him a budget at the lower figure won’t get through the parliament. He says the leaders of the same political groups told him that they have already initiated the procedure required to ensure that the vote on the budget is taken by secret ballot.

Yes, I know, outrageous. But the parliament has the power to do it. And far from being ashamed, the MEPs will hail a secret vote as a democratic protection against  ‘dangerous’ and ‘nationalist’ pressures on MEPs from their home governments.

So, as I say, the parliament trying to veto Cameron’s ‘triumph’ is something stronger than a rumour. But if it’s rumour you want, try this: a confrontation with the Council is part of Schulz’s plan to be the next president of the European Commission. He appears to want to present himself as the champion of – typical left-winger – solidarity, which he calls ‘the key value underpinning the European Union’. If he can line himself up as the anti-Cameron, there are enough ‘anti-nationalists’ who would want him to lead the Commission as insurance against any increase of Council powers at the expense of the Commission.

Mary Ellen Synon is based in Brussels as a columnist at the Irish Daily Mail and contributor to the Mail on Sunday.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Rousseau

    “Ruppert Murdock for Prime Minister !”

  • Barbara Stevens

    If Mr Schulz does tries to get the agreement changed, after leaders have agreed, he may cause more damage than he realises. Doing in secret will give Mr Cameron more power not less. There would be nothing more advantages to us Brits to see a German trying to dictate in secret, that will enhance our in out referednum to come more swiftly. This man, who is an hard Socialist, reminds me of Socialist during the 1930s,in Germany, is he of the creed? We will have none of it, and it will remind many doubters within the EU what the are agreeing to an with whom.
    An agreement was made, if they try to over turn it via secret meetings, we should just ignore them, don’t pay anymore than the agreement expects; dicators expect to be obeyed don’t give them the satisfaction, I hope Cameron is ready for this.
    He should call off all agreements and walk away from the EU altogether, Germany won’t like that one bit, being left with the open bills. Of course with socialist you cannot get reason or honesty, its time many countries woke up and smelt the coffee, the milks turning off.

  • beat_the_bush

    If we briefly consider the EU’s constiutional make up to be a bicameral arrangement between the Member States in the Council on the one hand, and the Parliament on the other, then any undue influence from the Council onto the Parliament is a clear breach of European constitutional order and thus the Parliament has a duty to respond by shielding itself from pressure and internal national political games. Hence the secret ballot is perfectly legitimate, if MEPs wish to vote with their conscience without being coerced.

  • Rousseau

    Could UK just leave the EU soon ?

    For much people outside your country which have any concern in social progress
    it would be such a relief !

    I prefer largely to live in an country with a limited power but a clear “social contract” than
    in a powerfull country where an unfair state of nature and cultural disaster is presented as the unquestionable and desirable future. Obtuse rationalism is good only for robots..

    I went to England many times for my Phd. I have to remember the kindness of many people i met there and the courage of some who try to maintain the basis of Occidental cultural tradition against ultra-libertarian barbarism. But appart from that what i have see is a country pledged with a deep social fracture : between some well-born persons who can find their advantage in economic chaos and already-dead persons who can only find a way to forget they are just toys in the hand of the wealthy-one in football shampionship.

    If it is the model you want to promote… No thanks

  • alabenn

    Schulz’s plan to be the next president of the European.

    Really, he is going to kick sand in Merkels face and still matter when or if he manages to win this rather futile job, its time you thought about the real world Ms M.E. Synon

  • Curnonsky

    It would be paranoid indeed to suspect a stitch-up, saying “yes” to Dave and then letting good old Schultzie fix it in a conveniently secret vote later.

  • dalai guevara

    Dear Ms Synon
    ‘New powers’ as you care to put it are essential to making a 27 nation club fit-out work.
    What would we do if Cumbria could veto a third runway in Heathrow? We would not pass a single bill, never mind form a credible opinion before doing so. So please refrain from pretending this was a non-sensical -or ‘unpleasantly socialist’- approach. When you cannot achieve unanimous approval in the first instance, you move on to a majority vote in the next stage. Changes have been made since. Are you disputing the legitimacy or logic of that?

    • Wessex Man

      As I understand it when all the recent Eastern European State joined the existing large States, Germany, UK, France and Italy had their representives cut to achieve “balance.” So your point about Cumbria and Heathrow rather makes the exactly opposite point to which you intended.

  • Augustus

    These socialist and federalist MEPs ought to aim their grievances at the majority of member states who consistently refuse to justify their wasteful spending in the name of Europe, resulting in the European Court of Auditors repeatedly rejecting the budget year
    after year. This is a major scandal, but that’s always the case with subsidies; they become addictive. Why should cow walls in Poland be constructed with EU money? Criticism is dismissed as demagoguery, but it’s obvious that all those billions pumped into Europe in recent decades haven’t exactly increased its competitiveness.

  • Walter Ellis

    I certainly agree about the villainy of a secret vote. I hope that gets thrown out before the debate. But it’s hard to argue that the EU is undemocratic and at the same time that its power over the budget (given to it by the European Council) is illegitimate.

    The Parliament is directly elected by the people of Europe. It includes 78 representatives from the UK, eleven of whom, from Ukip, spend most of their time rubbishing the EU while claiming every euro cent they can in expenses.

    There is no democratic reason why the Parliament should endorse the policies of the British Government (though on this occasion I hope it does). MEPs are not there to rubber-stamp David Cameron, they are there to represent their interests of their constituents from 27 countries.

    • chudsmania

      Could help but have a UKIP dig could you……You 5th columnist….So the rest dont bother claiming expenses then huh ?

      • beat_the_bush

        UKIP needs to be dug at. UKIP supporters have a habit of pretending their turd smells nicer than everyone elses. No other party supporters are this naiive.

  • realfish

    ‘…And the new powers the Lisbon Treaty gives the parliament over the budget means Schulz can do just that…’
    That will be the Lisbon Treaty on which Labour promised a referendum. The Treaty that Gordon Brown signed, creeping in, ‘in the dead on night’ to add his signature, out of the sight of prying eyes. The Treaty that Labour ratified in defiance of Labour’s promise of a referendum and an impending election. The Treaty that was described as a simple ‘tidying up’ exercise and not a vehicle that would transfer further powers to the EU or affect our veto.
    It is time that Labour (and Gordon Brown in particular) were made to fully account for their dishonesty.

    • telemachus

      To what end
      The public trust Labour on Europe
      They trust the Tories to squabble over Europe

      • 2trueblue

        Well they would wouldn’t they? Liebore gave in all the way so what did they do for the UK? Your friend Bliar gave away the rebate, and got nothing for it, Brown scuttled off to sign the Lisbon treaty, and Darling then went and gave them £11billion in Liebores last days. A real achievement. Ah, and then there was that promised referendum not delivered over 13yrs. Like everything. Liebore just could not deliver.

        • realfish

          There’s something about democracy that lefties seem to be allergic to.
          Brown’s failure to hold a promised referendum, Miliband blocking attempts to ensure all votes are of equal value and Schultz’ secret voting scam are all examples of the left’s fear of the people. Something that is deeply embedded in socialism’s DNA

      • Youbian

        I presume you are a spoof. Your comments do make me laugh.

      • David B

        In a secret vote the majority will assume labour MEP’s will vote against this deal and for a rise in the EU Budget. Ed will have reached his high water mark

  • Bert3000

    What’s ‘outrageous’ about the elected representatives of the people of Europe getting a say on the budget?

    • James Strong

      The most outrageous part is the suggestion that the vote would be secret.

    • HooksLaw

      What is outrageous is they have no responsibility for the consequences.
      Especially if the vote is secret. However if they did vote against it I would expect them to be asked the question in the forthcoming euro election.

      There is of course no ‘government’ and no ‘opposition’ in the Euro parliament.
      The issue underlines the pointlessness on the ‘euro parliament in the first place.

      • Wessex Man

        Hooky, I never laughed at your post, I’m going to have a second long lie down.

  • Archimedes

    “But if it’s rumour you want, try this: a confrontation with the Council is part of Schulz’s plan to be the next president of the European Commission.”

    Oh, come on. The leaders of all the European states have just committed to a budget deal, after gruelling negotiations, to save face with their own electorates. Does Schulz really think anyone is going to welcome it being opened up again? If they do go ahead with this then it will be great for the UK, because it will fuel momentum to reform the EU – starting with the European parliament that decided to act purely in it’s own interest and embarrass every prime minster and president in the EU.

    • Deputy Dawg

      Hang on! Which governments would be annoyed if the European Parliament vetoed this deal? None of the Governments who are net beneficiaries will be disappointed as they want the gravy train to continue. Nor will the French be disappointed as they don’t want the budget reduced either. So most of them would be quite happy to talk the talk of fiscal responsibility while actually having instructed their MEPs to reject the budget. This is a win-win situation for most of them, including Cameron.

      • Archimedes

        Hang on! The world is watching the EU to see if it can survive. The peculiarity of a parliament deciding to veto a budget agreed on by the elected heads of state of it’s members would certainly drive home the notion that the EU is a broken and poorly devised institution made up of more broken and poorly devised institutions. No Europhile with an ounce of intelligence would want that either.

        • dalai guevara

          Hang on! The world is watching the US hitting the fiscal cliff every couple of months, and whether the UK will finally get a grip on its bankers. I must say these are the far more interesting playing fields to watch, as they will focus our attention on the source of the problem, not its outcomes.

        • dan

          europhiles dont give a fuck how anything looks. they are beyond that

        • Curnonsky

          “Europhile with an ounce of intelligence” – that’s a good one, must remember it.

        • Rousseau

          The central matter is what we want for Europe. Until no compromise is established on that question, EU is going to crumble. Personally i prefer being outside Europe, than in a mega-country wose policy is almost religiously fixed with regard to ultra-liberal paradigms.

  • John McClane

    M E Synon! Welcome! I hope this is the first of frequent posts!

    • HooksLaw

      The irish amerincan bonker of england… wonderful to hear her insight. The one who thinks the paralympics are ‘perverse’. Yes she should go down well on here.

    • telemachus

      I welcome you too

      Glad you highlighted the ” ‘dangerous’ and ‘nationalist’ pressures on MEPs ”
      There will be universal applause for the reported cut and I suspect most of our MEP’s (Farage and cronies excepted) will take the opposite view.
      They view the the European project for the great sharing peace project that it is.
      They will not want to suffer the approbium of doing the right thing

      • chudsmania

        Still trolling i see.