EU veto: Cameron says he negotiated in 'good faith'
- 12 December 2011
- From the section UK Politics
David Cameron has said he "genuinely looked to reach an agreement" at the EU summit but vetoed treaty change because it was not in the national interest.
Mr Cameron told MPs he negotiated in "good faith" and his demands were "modest, reasonable and relevant".
The prime minister said he used the veto as he did not secure "sufficient safeguards" on financial regulation.
His pro-European Deputy PM Nick Clegg, decided not to take his usual place alongside the PM in the Commons.
Labour leader Ed Miliband questioned why Mr Clegg was not in the Commons, saying the PM could "not even persuade" his deputy of the merits of his actions.
The statement began with Labour MPs shouting "where's Clegg" - and later during the statement Tory backbencher Nadine Dorries accused the Lib Dem leader of "cowardice" while a succession of Labour MPs asked the PM if he knew where Mr Clegg was.
After the Commons statement Mr Clegg told reporters that everyone knew he and prime minister disagreed on the outcome of the summit: "I would have been a distraction if I was there."
He added: "Being isolated as one is potentially bad for jobs, bad for growth, bad for the livelihoods of millions of people in this country, but the coalition government is here to stay."
Giving an account of the decisions he took in Brussels in Friday, Mr Cameron insisted he had agreed his negotiating stance with his Lib Dem partners before the summit and the two parties had to "put aside differences" to work in the national interest.
During rowdy exchanges, Commons Speaker John Bercow has had to intervene on several occasions to restore order.
Explaining his decision to veto the treaty, Mr Cameron said it was "not an easy thing to do but it was the right thing to do".
He said he was faced with the "choice of a treaty without proper safeguards or no treaty and the right answer was no treaty".
He dismissed claims that he had demanded "an opt-out" for the City from EU directives on finance, seeking only proper regulations and a "level playing field" for British business in Europe.
"I went to Brussels with one objective - to protect Britain's national interest. And that is what I did."
He argued: "I do not believe there is a binary choice for Britain that we can either sacrifice the national interest on issue after issue or lose our influence at the heart of Europe's negotiating process.
"I am absolutely clear that it is possible to be a both a full, committed and influential member of the EU but to stay out of arrangements where they do not protect our interests."
But Ed Miliband said the PM had gained nothing from the negotiations, saying "it is not a veto when something goes ahead without you, that's called losing".
"He has come back with a bad deal for Britain," he told MPs. "Far from protecting our interests, he has left us without a voice."
Suggesting the outcome was a "diplomatic disaster" for the UK, Mr Miliband said the prime minister "did not want a deal as he could not deliver it through his party".
Mr Cameron repeatedly pressed his Labour counterpart on whether he would have signed the Treaty.
Although the Labour leader to did not directly reply, the BBC's Nick Robinson said Mr Miliband's aides later made it clear he would not have signed it as it stood - but would have stayed in the room and secured a better outcome.
Mr Cameron's efforts were applauded by a succession of Eurosceptic Conservative MPs, one - John Redwood - saying he had shown "excellent statesmanship".
"Britain today has much more negotiating strength because they know they are dealing with a prime minister who will say no if he needs to," he said.
But Lib Dem MP Martin Horwood said international investors now needed reassurance that the UK remained "at the heart" of European decision-making while his colleague Jo Swinson accused the PM of "rushing for the exit" rather than trying to secure a consensus.
Plaid Cymru's leader in Westminster, Elfyn Llwyd, accused the PM of putting the interests of the City ahead of the national interest while the SNP's Stewart Hosie said Mr Cameron had not consulted with devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland before using his veto.
The treaty changes needed the support of all 27 EU members, including those not in the euro, such as the UK, to go ahead. It now looks likely that all 26 other members of the European Union will agree to a new "accord" setting out tougher budget rules aimed at preventing a repeat of the current eurozone crisis.
The new accord will hold eurozone members to strict budgetary rules including:
- a cap of 0.5% of GDP on countries' annual structural deficits
- "automatic consequences" for countries whose public deficit exceeds 3% of GDP
- a requirement to submit their national budgets to the European Commission, which will have the power to request that they be revised
French President Nicholas Sarkozy has suggested Friday's outcome signalled "there are now clearly two Europes".
However the deal still has to be agreed by a number of national parliaments, and the reaction of the financial markets suggests it has failed to bring a swift end to the euro crisis.
The BBC's Rob Cameron in Prague said: "Commentators here have taken a more cautious - and arguably more accurate - view, reflecting the fact that the Czechs haven't signed up to anything yet."
The current French presidential front-runner, Socialist Francois Hollande, said on Monday that if he was elected next May he would renegotiate the accord, saying: "This accord is not the right answer."
One of Chancellor Merkel's close aides in the German parliament told the BBC's Stephen Evans he does not see why "Britain should stay isolated".
CDU Chief Whip Peter Altmaier said: "Over the last years there has been very intensive cooperation between the UK and Germany and I'm deeply convinced that this will continue. It will last. We have so much in common and there are so few issues that divide us."