No sooner had the EU annual budget talks collapsed then up popped Van Rompuy with a proposal for the multi-annual budget, confusing the issues even more than they have been.
This was a compromise draft multi-annual budget, "aiming to mollify Britain which wants spending cuts but risking angering France by reducing farm subsidies". The draft would reduce the roughly 1 trillion euro budget for 2014-2020 proposed by the European Commission by about €80 billion euros, ready for the discussions on 22-23 November.
At the time, we were told that the proposal safeguarded the British rebate, which predictable meant that the French would reject it – which it did. Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French prime minister, objected to deep cuts to agriculture spending, and also "expressed displeasure" with proposed reductions in cohesion funds.
Ayrault, however, pledged that France would "continue to work in a constructive manner to find an overall accord", a normally meaningless phrase which quickly acquired the meaning: "France to shaft Britain". Soon enough, we heard diverse reports, culminating in the loss-making Guardian telling us that this draft budget also shaved around €1 billion a year off the British rebate and cutting the overall seven-year budget to about €950 billion.
Thus, with apparent disarray on the multi-annual front, all word of the 2013 budget crisis has disappeared from sight. As a result, MEP Alain Lamassoure (EPP, France), chairman of the EU Parliament's budget committee, was not amused. He says the EU is "not credible" by starting to negotiate the long-term budget for 2014-2020, before having agreed current payments.
He, and he alone, seems to be conscious of the stalemate over the correction budget for 2012, which has crashed the 2013 budget proposals, leading to the bizarre sitation where EU leaders will meet in an attempt to agree the budget for 2014-2020 in absence of an agreement for 2012 and 2013.
But when we have Lamassoure saying that the EU is "not credible", that really is something. The whole budget process is descending into chaos, the like of which we have never before seen.