Fiscal cuts vindicate Cameron hard line

Sat, Feb 9, 2013, 00:00

Conservative MPs have seized on the European Council’s decision to cut the European Union’s budget over the next seven years as evidence that British prime minister David Cameron can secure changes in the UK’s membership conditions.

Despite weeks of backbench unrest, Mr Cameron was in that rarest of political places yesterday: he was praised from all sides for having led the demands for spending cuts at the summit.

Equally, Eurosceptic Conservative MPs saw the development as further evidence that parliamentary pressure can force Downing Street to take a tougher line in Brussels negotiations than it would otherwise do.

Last October more than 80 Tory MPs rebelled when they voted for EU spending cuts in a vote which was passed with the support of the Labour Party.

‘Securing a deal’

One of the leading rebels, Douglas Carswell said: “Under pressure from the taxpayer, MPs instructed ministers not to hand over extra amounts of money. And ministers appear to have responded by securing a deal that does precisely that.”

Labour also welcome the result. Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said the commons had given Mr Cameron a clear mandate even if he “was ready to throw in the towel and aim for a freeze”.

Meanwhile, leader of the UK Independence Party Nigel Farage said demands that MEPs should vote by secret ballot is “a dark, dark day for democracy. It’s utterly staggering. Making this a secret ballot removes all accountability from the feckless MEPs who will wilfully vote down the plans to cut the EU budget.”

Mr Cameron is even escaping criticism for the fact that the UK will be contributing more to the EU because of concessions made by former Labour PM Tony Blair on the UK rebate eight years ago.

That criticism is set to be voiced during Monday’s commons debate. “Hard-line Eurosceptics will denounce it.

“He could come back saying we’re paying tuppence and they will say it’s tuppence too much,” said cabinet minister Kenneth Clarke.