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Cameron outfoxed from right and left on EU budget

29 October 2012

David Cameron now appears to have been outfoxed by his own backbench and the Labour party on the European budget. A Downing Street spokeswoman confirmed this morning that while the opposition and a group of rebellious MPs will campaign for a real-terms cut in the multi-annual budget, the Prime Minister remains committed to negotiating for a real-terms freeze.

The spokeswoman said:

‘His position is a real terms freeze: there has not been a real terms freeze in the multi-annual budget in recent years. That’s what we are committed to negotiating for.’

As I blogged earlier today, moves are afoot within the Conservative party to push for a real-terms cut, and there is now no backbench motion supporting the Prime Minister. Mark Pritchard and Mark Reckless have joined forces on one amendment to Wednesday’s motion calling for a real terms cut, although this morning Conservative MPs believed there were two motions which called for a real-terms freeze and a real terms cut respectively, and were briefly grouping themselves around one or the other when they were in fact the same thing. There is just one which amends the motion below:

That this House takes note of European Union Documents No. 16844/11, No. 16845/11, No. 16846/11, No. 16847/11, No. 16848/11, No. 6708/12 and Addenda 1–3, No. 9007/12, No. 12356/12, and No. 13620/12, relating to the Commission’s proposal on the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), 2014–2020; agrees with the Government that at a time of ongoing economic fragility in Europe and tight constraints on domestic public spending, the Commission’s proposal for substantial spending increases compared with current spend is unacceptable, unrealistic, too large and incompatible with the tough decisions being taken in the UK and in countries across Europe to bring deficits under control and stimulate economic growth; notes that UK contributions to the European Union budget have also risen in recent years due to the 2005 decision to give away parts of the UK rebate; agrees that the next MFF must see significant improvements in the financial management of EU resources by the Commission and by Member States and significant improvements in the value for money of spend; further agrees that the proposed changes to the UK abatement and proposals for new taxes to fund the EU budget are completely unacceptable and an unwelcome distraction from the pressing issues that the EU needs to address; and calls on the Government to seek significant savings to the Commission’s seven year framework, as set out in the Prime Minister’s joint letter with France, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland of 18 December 2010, which stated that ‘payment appropriations should increase, at most, by no more than inflation over the next financial perspectives’.

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The amendment removes the bold section (my emphasis) at the end, and adds:

‘So calls on the government to strengthen its stance so that the next MFF is reduced in real terms.’

So while Pritchard claims that he is not creating a rebellion on this issue, the position that he and Reckless are jointly taking goes further than David Cameron’s.

It may well be that what backbenchers want is simply not possible: as the spokeswoman said, there has not been a real-terms freeze in the budget in recent years. She referred to the fact that there are 27 member states, adding that the government has already made its own position clear on the matter. But if this was a hint that Cameron’s real desire is for a cut, his spokeswoman wouldn’t oblige by spelling that out, repeatedly saying ‘we have set out our position’.

This is a problem for Cameron. If his backbenchers suspect that he doesn’t actually want a real-terms cut in the budget rather than just being pragmatic and aiming for the more likely real-terms freeze, then they will not be kind to him. And it’s only a small step for Labour to support the Pritchard/Reckless amendment and make the Prime Minister appear weak. But an equally small but important step would be for Cameron to be unequivocal that his own personal desire is that the budget be cut.

UPDATE: I’ve just spoken again to Pritchard, who points out that ‘the worst of both worlds’ would be for the Labour party to end up in what would be an extraordinary position of ‘claiming fiscal responsibility and leadership’ over the EU budget.

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  • Remittance Man

    She [THE SPOKESWOMAN] referred to the fact that there are 27 member states, adding that the government has already made its own position clear on the matter.
    Remind me. In Britain, which entity is sovereign? The government? Or Parliament?

    • Rhoda Klapp

      The people?

  • Barbara Stevens

    Cameron is between two fires here, his own back benchers and party it’s self. He should however, look to the country rather than anything else. The country does not want increases in the EU budget while cuts here are taking place. Its commonsense. They waste money by the billions so why should we fund them more to continue the silliness. His party are rackling their discontent, his backbenchers are are making noises, and joining together to make bigger noises. Still Cameron ignores us all. He should has PM think about the welfare of this country above anything else; he should then refuse to agree with any increase until restraint and cuts take place within the EU. Nothing else will do, if they refuse he should then walk away telling them straight the British people will decide themselves. A referendum. He should realise the 55 million per day they receive would also cease forthwith. That should make bells ring within the EU. Will he act like that, no he won’t? Will they be bothered and believe it, no they won’t? That is until we have a man at the helm who means what he says. We don’t have that man.

  • In2minds

    Yes Vulture very interesting about Gisela Stuart. Many years ago I took
    part in a debate with her she’s charming yes but also typical Labour,
    a little slippery let’s say. Hinting and implying, in private, that
    she has her own views and eurosceptics could trust her. She was a bit
    different on the platform though!

  • roy may

    Henceforth November 22 2015 will be known as “Capitulation Day” the day when Cameron surrenders to his EU bosses on budget reform an also to the European Courts on votes for villains
    Initially Cameron was talking about vetoing ANY rises, now its been watered down to above inflation. But fear not Cameron WILL give in to Rumpy and pay whatever Rumpy demands. There will of course be buckets of spin put on his surrender to make him sound tough but we will still pay up, The convicts WILL get the vote too just you watch
    Oh yes they will get the vote, Cameron will capitulate. A couple of weeks ago he said he would veto ANY rise in the EU budget and would push for a reduction. But he is now in discussions with Rumpy about a rise in line with inflation at 5%. You can bet he will capitulate on this as well, However for some reason he thinks the electorate will believe his promise of a referendum AFTER the next election, you couldn’t make it up, Ha Ha Ha Ha !!!!!!!!!
    The Spinmiesters will pull out all the stops on this one, Just watch this space

  • Augustus

    Cameron needs to fight his corner for Britain. If he can’t do that then he’s useless and should be replaced. Europe want’s a 6.8% increase in the budget for next year. That is not on. It really is unbelievable that while individual countries are forced to cut back and
    economize the EU wants to spend more, a large part of which, incidentally, is earmarked for undeveloped regions and agricultural or rural matters. Then the billions saved can be
    invested in Britains own infrastructure, education and welfare.

  • Disenchanted

    Cameron’s favourite course of action is to seek agreement. That is how we finished up with a coalition. The danger is he will be outflanked and outmanoeuvered by all parties, left, right and Europe. By seeking to be all things to all men he will finish up being nothing to nobody!

    • Eeyore

      “By seeking to be all things to all men he will finish up being nothing to nobody!”
      – not ‘nothing to nobody’, but what he set out to be: Heir to Blair.
      (Which is about the same thing, I grant you!)


    Message to Verity: study the above picture. It appears to be one of the hen’s arse just before an egg is laid.

  • Vulture

    Interesting that Gisela Stuart one of the few sensible Labour MPs ( they can be counted on the fingers of a lumberjack’s hand, indeed I can only think of Frank Field and Kate Hoey) – has now declared that Britain should leave the EU. Interesting too that she was born in Germany. Could it be that Labour’s historic Euroscepticism is returning? It would be a sure way of them getting votes.

    • Charlie the Chump

      Dead cert. Best politics in the world, no policies just wait for the other prat to trip himself up

  • Lastchancesaloon

    The EU budget cannot be cut as this is needed to bailout the failing states. The €500 billion ESM fund is now available to the EC on top of the existing €260 billion remainder of the EFSM. The EZ will have ECB supervisors and pre-budget approval requirements for all bailed out states. Our energy security is dependent on the EU as we could not negotiate gas prices with Putin on our own. The EU open borders policy means we can expect another million Romanian and Bulgarian welfare immigrants and we effectively have no control over our borders. The rebel MP’s know this and so do the public at large. If parliament cannot reflect the will of the people then they have only themselves to blame when they are all replaced by EU bureaucrats.

    • Charlie the Chump

      The €500bn does not exist, it’s been counted and re-counted and only consists of IOU’s and promises to pay and includes contributions from bust Club Meds & Ireland.

  • David Lindsay

    Tune in to Radio Four at 8pm this evening for Document, on the relationship between Britain and Michael Collins, such that British troops fired the first shots of the Irish Civil War. And stay tuned in at 8:30, for Analysis, when Gisela Stuart MP will call for British withdrawal as part of the ongoing disintegration of the European Union.

    The strongest opposition to that project has always come from pro-Commonwealth Keynesians in both main parties, although constituting the historical norm only on the Labour side. Any intellectually serious, rather than televisually entertaining, call for the restoration of our sovereignty under the present circumstances was always going to come, just as the intellectually serious rather than the televisually entertaining opposition to Maastricht came, from that quarter.

    The EU referendum motion was, as I explained at the time, the wrong motion. But it was the motion that there was, and the following Labour MPs voted for it: Ronnie Campbell, Rosie Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn, Jon Cruddas, John Cryer, Ian Davidson, Natascha Engel, Frank Field, Roger Godsiff, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, Steve McCabe, John McDonnell, Austin Mitchell, Dennis Skinner, Andrew Smith, Graham Stringer, Gisela Stuart, Mike Wood.

    Cruddas now heads the Policy Review. Cryer took a respectable 88 votes (to the 138 for the victorious Dave Watts) in the election to chair the Parliamentary Labour Party. Skinner is one of the three members of the National Executive Committee elected by Labour MPs, the other two being the no more EU-enthusiastic, or indeed remotely New Labour, Margaret Beckett and Steve Rotheram.

    Although himself as far as possible from the Hard Left, Frank Field had previously nominated John McDonnell for Leader. As had the Countryside Alliance’s Kate Hoey. As had Ronnie Campbell, together with his constituency neighbour Ian Lavery, the two Labour MPs, being half of all the MPs, from the second most rural county in England; Campbell is a pro-life Catholic. And as had Ian Davidson, a Co-operative stalwart who on the floor of the House has correctly identified New Labourites as “Maoists and Trotskyists”, and who, as befits a protégé of Janey Buchan, is a hammer both of Scottish
    separatism and of European federalism.

    • FRANKP1

      Having read your first sentence, the necessary response was immediately apparent: Fuck off! The rest, of course remained unread.

    • Gordon Ghandi

      Not sure the in depth dissection of labour helps the case nor does it have any interest at all, but if any of them vote to cut the budget and get out I would consider voting for them next time. We must stop the bleeding of our budget to useless EU admin crooks and placemen.

  • HooksLaw

    Do labour want to see the EU cutting too fast too deeply?

    I don’t see why there should be some sort of problem for Cameron in that some loony tune MPS want a cut rather than a freeze in the EU budget. On the other hand the sight of loony tune nut jobs doing the Labour Party’s work for them is a different matter.

  • @PhilKean1

    Cameron could have avoided this trouble

    – if, indeed, he really is in trouble (because Britain’s pro-EU, Liberal elites close ranks when progress towards Federal integration is threatened).

    We are told that Hague warned Cameron NOT to make resisting EU integration a matter which could divide his party?
    But how could it not? And why, if Hague’s advice was taken on board, did Cameron decide to alienate Pro-Sovereignty MPs (who were in touch with public opinion and represented what the electorate voted for in 2010) and NOT the Pro-EU minority on his own back-benches?

    Anyway, if Cameron had kept to his promises on the EU and prevented any further loss of Sovereignty, then he would most certainly be enjoying the full support of the country – as was proved during the Phantom-VETO affair – the majority of his own, and a good number of Labour back-benchers.

  • Ade

    @twitter-80313999:disqus That was my thought. With Parliament pushing for a cut it presents Cam as seeking a middle way.

  • Gina Dean

    The waste in the EU is dreadful. Moving every month to the other parliament in Strasburgh with the high movement costs. Increase in the wages bill, expenses for traveling. There is know way that they will cut the EU budget as it has to be agreed by all 27 countries. If we are the only ones to stand up for this the UK will be named called as usual. It is time that we as a country called time on this overbloated entity. Please do not trot out the old chestnuts about how much we trade with them, we would anyway, even if we were out of it. It is time that a serious debate was had to find out if it is cost effective.

    • 2trueblue

      Agree with you about the trade figures, always trotted out and incorrectly at that. We export to the EU, but we also export to other areas via Rotterdam so the figure is wrong. We also run a deficit so will they still not continue to sell to us?!!!!
      Just imagine the Germans not selling those lovely BMWs to us!!!!

  • Vulture

    ‘But an equally small but important step would be for Cameron to be unequivocal that his own personal desire is that the budget be cut…’
    But this leaves out the fact that Cameron is a Europhile committed to just one thing. Asking how high he should go when his masters in Brussels say ‘Jump!’

  • Ian Walker

    Not sure why this hurts Cameron. He now goes into talks with Merkel and her French poodle being able to play the ‘good cop’ – a real terms freeze now appears (from their point of view) to be him being pro-European compared to his parliament, while simultaneously being more anti-European (from the domestic point of view) than any budget negotiator since Thatcher.

    • dalai guevara

      Fine point made there. What we are witnessing is in fact a Pope-style politics of posturing. Include everyone, change nothing. Lovely.

  • anyfool

    Cameron has been outflanked by the Tory right on their own.
    The Labour Party spokesman on The Daily Politics could not bring himself to say he would support them, slimy double talk is still the default mode of the current crop of Labour MPs, what can you expect from Balls and Millipede who has now become a junior for Balls something akin to Cameron’s public school Fag

    • telemachus

      This analysis of Miliband is as welcome as it is true.
      Mattereth not.
      They will supplant the Cameron-Osborne duo soon

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