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EU 'deal' to pre-vet national budgets

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(LUXEMBOURG) - EU finance ministers agreed on Monday that national budgets should be shown to European partners before they are fixed back home, EU president Herman Van Rompuy said.

However, French and British diplomats immediately adopted vastly differing interpretations of what had been agreed during a meeting of Van Rompuy's "task force" on economic governance.

Van Rompuy said ministers agreed to adhere to a "Spring semester", a period before budgets are fixed over the summer and which would give "time to adjust before the budget is approved."

Brussels wants to be able to re-jig national spending priorities to fit with the broader landscape of competitive imbalances within intertwined EU economies.

But Britain, represented at the talks by Conservative financial secretary to the Treasury Mark Hoban, does not want any of the task force's recommendations to apply to countries, like itself, that are outside the eurozone.

When pressed on "specificities" Van Rompuy referred to in the timing of Britain's budget presentation, a French diplomat said that London would present its budgetary plans "not after, (but) before or simultaneously" to Westminster.

However, a British diplomat reiterated that: "The UK would not be prepared to submit draft budgets to the European Commission or peer review before putting them to parliament.

"We will not support measures that undermine the role of parliament," he underlined.

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