A few thousand square feet in Brussels. The EU occupies more than a million of them across the city.
On paper, it doesn't look good for the European Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget. Five countries, five democratically-elected leaders, and two hundred and twenty million people - more than half of the European Union's total population - are arrayed against him and his plans to force through an inflation-busting rise in the EU budget, taking it to a record £137 billion. But the Pole has one thing on his side. He is one of the most senior officials in the European Union, and, as such, does not have to bother himself with such things as the popular vote, or the people elected by such old-fashioned means. The combined might of Cameron, Merkel, and Sarkozy did little to phase him last year, when he still managed to increase the European budget against the will of these three elected leaders. And now they're back for round two, he's still not going to give ground.
Janusz Lewandowski is the individual largely responsible for the soaring costs of Britain's EU membership: the increase of four billion pounds in the net membership fees last year, and now the £400 extra pound per family that Britain will, effectively, be paying when it has to contribute an extra six hundred million pounds to the European budget. And he is adamant that the EU budget cannot be allowed to reflect the austerity imposed on the peoples of Europe by national governments, and, as with Greece and Ireland, partly by the EU itself. The reason he gives is the EU's continued commitment to projects in the south and east. It's a flimsy excuse, especially as they are far away from the people who actually pay for them - most of those who pay the taxes which are then diverted to these projects are in Britain, France, Germany, Finland, and other net contributors, who, by definition, put more money into the EU than they get back, and who never see a penny of it returned to their public funds. But Janusz doesn't need to come up with any excuse whatsoever, as, simply, he has the power to do whatever he likes.
As written by Bruno Waterfield:
'German and French leaders last year backed Mr Cameron’s call for a freeze in the 2011 EU budget, but after a power struggle with the Commission and the European Parliament, the leaders were eventually forced to accept the rise.'
Sorry, what? The leaders of the dual engines of European integration were, essentially, swept aside by the European Commission and the European Parliament? The official representation of one hundred and forty million people were simply ignored. It's not entirely undemocratic. The European Parliament is involved. But no single country accounts for more than fifteen per cent of it. The five net contributors that pay for the budget who are resisting the increases will always be outvoted by the recipients of their hard-earned cash, and that's assuming that the MEPs actually vote for their electorate, rather than themselves - even Eurosceptic MEPs, notably UKIP, have a long history of voting for increases in the EU budget to fund their salaries, perks, and expenses. And, as we all know, the Commission is entirely unelected, and no-one on it is ever subject to a popular vote. That includes Mr. Lewandowski.
We, and our elected head of government, have no say in the matter. It has been decided, by the EU, that we shall give six hundred million pounds more to the EU every year. As much as we'd like to think we do, we must wake up to the fact that we have little, if any, control over how much or how little money the EU requires. It does not request; it demands. There is no other option left, and, even if there was, we'd have spent tens of billions by the time we got around to taking it. The only way we can regain control over our own finances - whether or not we pay nine billion in net contributions, whether or not we pay one billion in fines, whether or not we pay ten billion, maybe more, to save eurozone countries from collapsing under the weight of their own debt when our own national debt is going through the roof - is to withdraw from the EU.