Talks on next year’s EU budget have ended in deadlock after Britain led a group of countries refusing to offer MEPs a bigger say in future spending priorities.
The European Parliament had already conceded its call for a 6% rise would be pegged back to just 2.9%.
But Parliament negotiators wanted face-saving commitments from EU finance ministers about MEPs’ increased role in long-term financing decisions.
The two sides abandoned efforts to agree after six hours of talks in Brussels – the second attempt in less than a week to settle the size of the EU’s 2011 budget.
A compromise seems unlikely before the end of the year – meaning the budget for next year is held at 2010 levels on a monthly basis until a deal can be done.
That effectively means a freeze on spending for the time being – which Prime Minister David Cameron had demanded in the first place.
After the meeting, at which the UK was represented by Economic Secretary to the Treasury Justine Greening, European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek accused the UK and others refusing to give way of “intransigence”.
He continued: “We (MEPs) wanted a deal, but I regret that a few member states closed the door to the 2011 budget agreement. The intransigence of a few member states undermines the confidence of our citizens that the EU is working effectively. I warned ministers several times not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Unfortunately for European citizens, they have just done that.”
MEPs were warned that a 6% increase would be unacceptable at a time of austerity and belt-tightening in national economies.
Mr Buzek retorted: “I have been a Prime Minister myself: I am fully aware of what austerity means. The EU budget is not part of the problem, it is part of the solution. It is a tool to strengthen our response to the crisis. The EU budget cannot and should not be compared with national budgets: the EU cannot run a deficit. The EU budget is an investment vehicle.”