Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

On increasing the number of MEPs

The European Parliament is getting bigger – 18 new MEPs joining (thanks to the Lisbon Treaty), taking the total to 754.

Cue the predictable outrage from the usual suspects about the “cost” of these new MEPs, rent-a-quote eurosceptic think tank Open Europe telling the eurosceptic Telegraph:

“It’s strange that the EU sees it fit to go through a complicated process of treaty reform just to provide for more jobs in the European Parliament – at a time when virtually every country in Europe is cutting back… This says a lot about the EU’s priorities. If anything, the EU’s institutions should be slimmed down.

To start, let’s ignore the fact that this wilfully ignores that the additional MEPs were agreed years back, before the credit crunch hit, and that EU decision-making takes so bloody long that agreeing to change this hard-fought (but minor) amendment would be a logistical nightmare that would cost far more than the £28 million quoted as the cost over the next four years.

Instead, how about we look at the claim “If anything, the EU’s institutions should be slimmed down”. Why? Well, the implication is because they should cost less.

But, of course, the EU’s budget is a paltry €142.6 billion for 2011 – a tiny, tiny fraction of the total UK budget (about the same as the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions, in fact – and rather less than the UK government’s 2009 borrowing of £154.7 billion).

Cutting the EU’s budget is about as effective as those headline-grabbing, but drop-in-the-ocean, pay cuts for ministers. Cutting the Prime Minister’s salary by a few thousand a year when the budget deficit is running to the tens of billion is nothing but a PR ploy, and anyone with any sense knows it. The same goes for Open Europe’s knee-jerk calls for EU cutbacks. They’re a nonsense.

In fact, what anyone who really wants to see European governments save money *should* be doing is calling for *more* decision-making and legislating to be pooled at a European level.

Because if decisions are being taken at an EU level, this is because several EU member states want to do roughly the same thing. Therefore pretty much *every* decision taken at EU level is saving money.

(Sorry for the absence of late, by the way – *immensely* busy with the day job…)