No wonder people find EU budgets confusing and frustrating. On one hand we saw a huge media frenzy when the Prime Minister had his all night negotiation in February and secured the first time ever EU budget cut, now months later the details on the seven year Medium Term Financial Framework are still not yet finalised.
Last Monday night my own negotiations ran on until 2.30 am. This was on "Horizon 2020" the €70 billion program for funding science and research. It is one of the few areas where the UK gets back roughly what we put into the EU budget, and a very important sources of funds for scientists and entrepreneurs across the East of England. However these EU research programs have a terrible reputation for bureaucracy and red tape. I have been gathering evidence and suggestions for reforms for the past 3 years and the negotiations on the detailed changes have been going on for months. We are edging towards a deal which will (I hope) result in some simplifications for participants, less red tape and more directed assistance for small businesses. One of my priorities has been to make sure that funds will go to the best bids, based on excellence. Recent studies have shown that scientific research which is the result of international collaboration tends to have a greater impact. I believe that we should only fund internationally projects where international collaboration really does add value.
Getting money out of Brussels for local projects can be really hard work. On Friday Bernard Jenkin MP and I visited the Essex Wildlife trust who have recently had their funding bid rejected in Europe. The aim is to try to buy a piece of riverside land next to their site at Fingringhoe Wick and replace salt marsh habitat. As I write Bernard's office are trying to unlock a crucial part of the bid paperwork and to work out if we in the UK are gold plating the application form - all before a bid deadline of tomorrow!
In the meantime I am about to jump back on a Eurostar and go back into those negotiations on Science funding.