EU Budget – Apparently a Fight Cameron can Call a Win

So I’ve been away for the weekend and swamped in work since last Wednesday. However, not to renege on my pledge to post at least once a week (and having already missed my self-imposed Friday deadline), I’ve decided to post what I believe is most likely the smallest post I’ve written so far (I am quite verbose…)

For expediency, I’ll just bring your attention to the resolution of the UK’s outrage at its reviewed EU budget contributions. Apparently, Osborne met his colleagues on Friday and they reached an agreement whereby the payment has been postponed, without the necessity to pay interests due to a delay.

I have three comments:

  • First, would the same generosity have been showed to a small country? This is partially rhetoric and partially not. In other spheres of policy where the members states (MSs) police each other, small countries have been hard pressed only to see the majority relent in their forcefulness when grandees begin to struggle from the same problems (see Euro-zone SGP problems of 2003-2004). Where it is not rhetoric is because I don’t know what the history of budget contributions is or whether similar arrangements have been agreed with other MSs in the past. So really, do let me know if you know.
  • Second, and somewhat related to the first, this is a blow to the credibility of the EU. Rules are rules and they should be obeyed. Despite what we may think, I was under the impression that the UK wasn’t really surprised, that there was nothing “surprising about the demand from Brussels. The reverse side of this coin is that contrary to those accusations that the EU had no sensibility or flexibility and that it had played right into the hands of UK, they showed that they do have some flexibility. So there’s an interesting coin here where one side is “credibility” and the other is “flexibility”.
  • Finally, I’m wondering whether this saga will not simply repeat itself in the future, when the UK will have to pay the bill.

My opinion is that it does sound like is like political brinkmanship. Cameron (or someone manipulating him) might have just picked this fight on the bet that he could win it, because he desperately needed a win. So, all in all, sure it seems like good PR and everyone saves face. Cameron and Osborne are likely to spend the next weeks bragging about how well “they saved British interest”.

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