Cable warns European Parliament of potential public budget backlash - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Cable warns European Parliament of potential public budget backlash

Friday, 1 October 2010
Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat business secretary of Britain’s coalition government has issued a stern warning to MEPs in Brussels today that the EU will face a "big backlash" if its own budget is not subject to the same public spending disciplines that are currently being imposed at national levels.

Speaking at a meeting held in the European Parliament yesterday, Mr Cable, proudly sporting his Liberal Democrat lapel badge, said "at a time when national governments, including mine, are having to make very painful cuts in public spending, no one can understand why the European budget is not being subject to the same discipline."

"There is a backlash on the way, not only in the UK," he said. "Can I plead with you to tackle this issue seriously? Any sense that the European Parliament and Commission are not acutely sensitive to this issue will be very damaging."

At 67, Vince Cable is a highly respected economist with a background in industry and academia, and became the first cabinet minister of the new coalition government to address MEPs since it took office over the summer. In his keynote speech, he laid out in stark terms the challenge facing the UK economy alluding to its large budget deficit, its deflating property bubble and its "overweight banking sector" and promoted free trade as the route back to growth and prosperity.

Referring to former PM Gordon Brown’s economic preaching about Britain’s enviable economic model over the past decade, Mr Cable admitted that with now the "worst deficit in the G20 and beyond, one of the worst property bubbles, the most overweight banking sector, [and] one of the worst recessions … rest assured you won’t be getting any lectures from the UK today."

He told those in attendance that he was "an old-fashioned, unreconstructed, believer in free trade," and that he is looking forward to the Single Market Act due to be published by EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier next week. Mr Cable, left, said he hopes the document will include a section dedicated to helping small businesses overcome barriers to trade and reinvigorate Europe’s single market. He also expressed hope that the EU would push on with the Doha agenda of world trade talks.

"Trade is not a zero-sum game where one country gains at the expense of another," he said, "it benefits all countries because specialisation reduces costs and broadens access to a wider variety of products. Technology and good practice is disseminated. Competition stimulates and rejuvenates economies. A relapse into policies of nationalism and protectionism – whether in relation to goods or services or investment - would be a massive, and costly, mistake."

He made a point of commenting on Britain’s working relationship with the EU under the new coalition commenting that the government has "engaged positively with Europe in a way that may have caused some pleasant surprise".

He said its willingness to work with Europe was "not just the influence of the Lib Dems" and that "our Conservative colleagues, from the Prime Minister down, are realistic and engaged also. We recognize that our economic fate is inextricably linked with the rest of Europe," he said.

It was a good speech and well received by those in attendance - even if he did shamelessly manage to drop in a small plug for his recent bestselling book, ‘The Storm’…

Click here to read the speech.

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