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Why Cuts in the EU Budget Are Just Another Austerity Measure That Will Hit the Poorest Hardest

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So David Cameron wants to see a reduction in the EU's long-term budget, and with the support of conservative political leaders he looks to have contributed to just that.

He has argued that the EU is often wasteful, and that in any event it must make a contribution to the austerity measures and spending cuts currently being imposed in individual member states around the union.

He's quite right on the first point. There IS waste in the EU - and EU leaders are taking serious steps to reduce it. Greens argue there is much more that can be done: ending the monthly charade of decamping thousands of MEPs and officials, documents and so on from Brussels to Strasbourg in favour of the European Parliament having just a single seat, for example. That alone would save €200m a year - or €1.4bn over the 7-year period of the current budget negotiations.

His second argument just doesn't make any sense to me: how can an EU of purchasers contribute to a thriving UK economy if we cut money from the very budget lines that are supposed to bring EU countries back from the financial precipice?

Take, for example, the recently agreed Youth Guarantee - a Green proposal to guarantee a job or training for every young person in the EU to tackle the growing scourge of youth unemployment. Will spending less on this benefit the UK? Hardly.

The Lisbon Treaty sets out a range of social ambitions for the EU: poverty reduction, promotion of equality, access to work-related benefits, freedom of movement and training, developing new skills for new businesses and working towards delivering member states' commitment to a low-carbon economy - these activities are, in the main, funded through the European Social Fund.

Although it seems the total Multi-Annual Financial Framework budget has now been agreed at €960bn (down from the original European Commission proposal of €1047bn), the details of how much will be allocated to each budget stream have yet to be hammered out.

This means the 'Social Chapter' work of the EU could be hit hard - worsening poverty and financial insecurity across the union. I am sure Cameron and his fellow heads of government don't really think that's a price worth paying for a few anti-European headlines at home.

While we don't yet know exactly where the axe of cuts will fall, we know that these budgetary cuts are harsh, and the axe will fall somewhere. It seems almost certain that development aid (taking it below previously agreed rates) and new infrastructure spending (in renewable energy generation, for example, to help reduce the balance of payments deficits for many Member States and help them out of the crisis) will be hardest hit - exactly when they are needed most.

Of course the EU has some programmes we'd be much better off without: research into fusion power, for example. But how much public money is spent on these individual projects is surely a matter for EU politicians to argue about once a budget has been agreed, not ahead of negotiations being finalised.

In short, I'm not in favour of cuts to the EU budget, as I think they will be felt most in the work the EU does to tackle deprivation and environmental sustainability in a way that will deepen austerity across the union. Instead we are seeing yet more austerity - cuts of at least €11bn a year - and I think that will make life a little bit harder for all of us, even if you want to follow Cameron's logic (which I don't) and consider the EU little more than a free trade bloc. After all, if people have less money in their pockets, they can afford to buy fewer UK goods.