The European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) in the European Parliament has criticised MEPs for ignoring the financial reality and missing the opportunity to make savings in the European Union budget.

Speaking after the Budgets Committee rejected significant cuts and voted through a budget totalling €161.8bn (€2.3bn more than the original Commission proposal), ECR’s budgetary spokesman, German MEP Bernd Koelmel, said: “We know Brexit is coming. Nevertheless, the majority of the European Parliament wants to further increase the EU budget. It still has not learned its lesson”.

According to Koelmel, the EU must learn to live within its means and, with Britain’s budget contributions soon to come to an end, it should be taking steps now to put its spending on a sustainable footing.

However, the German MEP welcomed an increase in resources for border security and to tackle the causes of migration. His pilot project “Trees for Africa” was also included in the budget draft.

“The priorities of the EU should lie on those tasks that it can solve better than the member states on their own,” he said. “For me, the management of migration and solving the asylum crisis as well as the common concern for security within the EU is a high priority. However, I consider the spending on the employment initiative for young people to be a well-intentioned kludge of national failings in the employment and education sector.

“In solving the migration crisis, I think it is reasonable to proceed shoulder to shoulder in the EU,” he added. “We from the ECR therefore stood up to strengthen Frontex.”

As regards the “Trees for Africa” project, Koelmel said: “The ‘Trees for Africa’ project gives people an opportunity to improve their living conditions, to strengthen their economies themselves, and to provide a perspective for a self-determined life”.