David Cameron and George Osborne are under pressure from the EU to allow the vetting of the budget. George Osborne was warned privately of this a few weeks ago.
Late on Monday, after chairing a meeting in Luxembourg of finance officials from the 27 countries, Van Rompuy (pictured above) announced a "strong convergence of views" on the need for vetting of budgets and phased penalties for countries breaching deficit and debt ceilings. "Rapid progress can be made. That was clear from the large consensus on all the main points," he said.
The Cameron-Clegg government promptly contradicted him. British officials insisted that the government would have nothing to do with the peer review.
If the budget vetting went ahead, Cameron would be vulnerable to charges that he had allowed crucial sovereign powers to be transferred to the WU, something that he opposed.
Mark Hoban, financial secretary to the Treasury, attended the Luxembourg meeting on behalf of the chancellor, George Osborne. He said:"The budget will be presented to parliament first. There is no question of anyone other than MPs seeing it first. Once the chancellor has presented it to parliament, it is of course publicly available."
Van Rompuy and other European leaders want budget drafts to go before EU finance ministers and be examined by commission experts. "Not to be checked in detail or to be decided upon by the European institutions - that is the prerogative of the national parliaments," he said. "However, the main assumptions underlying the plans, like levels of growth or inflation, would be examined... A government presenting a budgetary plan with a high deficit will have to justify itself."
The council president, who heads a 'task force' of officials from the 27 states on how to boos Europe's 'economic governance', will report on the plan next week at an EU summit.
The article adds 'Cameron could be in for a bruising debut in Brussels'. Not necessarily so. All the prime minister has to do is stand firm. He needs to do this to show the EU sceptics in his party that he means what he says. Will he?