Claims and counter-claims about how much it costs the UK to belong to the European Union abound. Unsurprisingly, both sides of the debate cherry-pick the statistics that support their side of the argument, but both are also prone to misrepresent the facts and to neglect data that tell a different story.
There are in fact two types of EU budgets. There is the long-term budget, known as the multi-annual framework, which establishes the annual spending limits. This is negotiated ever seven years. There is also the annual budget, which sets out in more detail how the EU should spend its budget over the coming year.
It makes no sense to vote on a budget for the next seven years when the context is likely to have changed dramatically. Even the Soviet Union only planned five years ahead. Rather than being tied down to a seven year austerity budget, there should be a binding review around 2015 which would allow the next democratically elected European Parliament to have its say.
It is the same old budget as before, nothing new or modern about it. Farming and structural funds are the name of the game. It is like the EU's leaders have lazily gone to the fridge, rummaged around for the same old budget they've been serving up for the last 50 years, warmed it up a bit and whacked it on a plate. Bon appétit, Europe.
When did it become such a shameful thing to be pro-European and proud in this country? Why do politicians who sing the praises of Britain's membership of the EU in private, retreat in to the shadows in public? Why do the most vocal defenders of Europe's greatest ever achievement warn only of the dangers of withdrawal rather than share their vision of a united and prosperous union with Britain at its heart?