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European Parliament overwhelmingly rejects a secret ballot on EU budget vote

A plan to hold a secret ballot of MEPs on whether to accept or reject the next long-term EU budget appeared to have been buried today after a European Conservatives and Reformists group demand for an open ballot was supported by 553 MEPs, with only eight MEPs supporting a secret ballot.

A plan to hold a secret ballot of MEPs on whether to accept or reject the next long-term EU budget appeared to have been buried today after a European Conservatives and Reformists group demand for an open ballot was supported by 553 MEPs, with only eight MEPs supporting a secret ballot.

The European Parliament will eventually hold a final vote on whether to endorse the deal made by EU leaders last month, or to reject it entirely. At last month’s EU summit, the President of the Parliament reported to European leaders that the heads of the EPP, Socialist, Liberal and Green groups were agitating to secure enough signatures (151) to make the parliament’s vote on the long-term budget a secret one. This, it was believed, would free MEPs from their constituents and their Party leaders, and allow them to vote with their consciences.

Martin Callanan MEP, the Chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the parliament, launched a campaign to stop a secret ballot, which has secured support from across the Chamber.

Today, in a vote on a resolution that will open talks between the parliament and national governments on the long-term budget, Mr Callanan submitted an amendment calling for any final vote to be held in an ‘open and transparent manner’ so that MEP can be ‘held accountable to their electors in the elections for the European Parliament in 2014″. The amendment was adopted by 553 votes to only eight.

Although technically the group leaders could still collect 151 signatures for a secret ballot, Mr Callanan says the moral imperative is now clear for the parliament to hold an open ballot. In the parliamentary debate this morning the President of the Parliament said he would prefer an open vote, and the leader of the EPP group said that he no longer wants a secret ballot.

Mr Callanan, who represents the North East of England, said:

“The vote on the next seven-year budget will be one of the most important decisions this European Parliament will take. We would look ridiculous if we voted in secret but thankfully that looks much less likely now.

“If MEPs want to vote against the deal agreed by their own Prime Ministers then they must be held to account at the next election. The parliament cannot close the doors on the public when their scrutiny happens to be inconvenient.

“A secret ballot was a terrible idea cooked up by the leaders of the parliament’s federalist forces, aimed at enabling MEPs to vote for a bigger EU budget, without having to explain their actions to their electorates. It shows that for all their lecturing about democracy, the leaders of the other groups need a lesson themselves.

“It is looking increasingly likely that for all the bluster, MEPs are now beginning to retreat from their budget battle with national governments. The idea of a secret ballot has secured a great deal of criticism from backbenchers across the parliament and I am pleased that today we seem to have killed the idea. Now it’s time for other group leaders to bury it.”

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