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European Council Summit Ends With Unimpressive EU budget 2014-2020

11/02/2013 11:55 GMT | Updated 11/02/2013 11:55 GMT

I am not impressed by the deal that has just been struck by EU leaders' on the long-term EU budget, which will govern how money is spent at European level from 2014 up until 2020.

Ireland is currently at the helm of the EU. It is tempting to say that this is a bit of a Ryanair budget. A discount quantity-over-quality experience that leaves no one in a good mood.

Of course we need an EU budget that reflects the necessary austerity that has had to be brought in both here and abroad. Everyone is facing tough times, and that includes the EU. But the tragedy is that all negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework are a destructive and zero-sum game. This time, Europe's presidents and prime ministers have cut the budget, but have also cut out any hope of encouraging growth and jobs.

The decades old entrenched interests of the Common Agricultural Policy and structural funds have been saved, while new growth-inducing money for research, innovation and infrastructure has been sacrificed.

The new Connecting Europe Facility, which will fund much-needed cross-border transport, energy and broadband links, and which Liberal European Commissioners Siim Kallas and Neelie Kroes have fought so hard to defend, has taken the biggest hit.

Building bridges and motorways helps only a few, while new super-fast broadband brings people and businesses together, high-speed rail helps people get around and an interconnected European electricity grid has the potential to massively reduce our energy bills.

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.

I suppose we're supposed to be grateful that a deal was reached at all. But what this debacle shows is how ridiculous it is to try and budget for 2020 in 2013. Not even the USSR used to plan that far ahead.

You can't make spending commitments when you can't predict how the economy will be doing or how much will be coming in. And that's why Liberal Democrats are calling for at the least a proper budget review in 2017.

Indeed I would go so far as to say that the long-term budgets should be scrapped altogether. The EU should just do normal yearly budgets - just like here in the UK - and lose all the hype and the arduous all-nighter summits every seven years.

If we had already had yearly budgets, we could at least have had a stab at reforming the budget and boosting jobs and growth before now. We could have done something about the recession in 2009, instead of waiting for 2014.

As it happens, we have a budget in the 2010s designed - in the main - to deal with the post-war challenges of the 1950s, at best the 1990s. Not very impressive at all.