EU budget vote: Rebel MPs defeat government over spending cut call


The moment the outcome of the vote was announced

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The government has been defeated in Parliament on the EU budget after 53 Conservative MPs defied their party over the issue.

Tory rebels joined with Labour to pass an amendment calling for a real-terms cut in spending between 2014 and 2020.

The coalition says the budget must be frozen in real terms as a very minimum.

The amendment, passed by 307 votes to 294, is not binding on ministers, but is a blow to David Cameron's authority on Europe before key talks next month.

The defeat, the most significant since the coalition came to power in May 2010, came despite efforts by ministers to woo rebels and Mr Cameron earlier saying he would veto any budget deal if he could not get a good deal for Britain.

The rebel amendment calling for a real-terms reduction in EU spending was passed after a stormy debate in Commons on the 27-member union's next seven-year budget and UK contributions.

The European Commission's proposed budget for 2014-2020 would see a 5% increase in spending on the current seven year period.

'Fed up'

What is the UK's net contribution to the EU?

  • The UK is one of 12 EU members which makes a net contribution to the EU budget - meaning it pays in more than it gets back in EU funding.
  • But there are different figures for what the UK's net contribution is depending on how it is calculated.
  • The EU financial year runs from January to December. The Treasury says that in 2011 the UK net contribution to the EU budget was £8.1bn. But for the UK financial year, running from April 2010 to March 2011, the Treasury says the contribution was £8.91bn.
  • The European Commission has a different figure. In 2011 it says the UK's net contribution was 7.25bn euros (£5.85bn; $9.4bn).

Government supporters said it would be "nigh on impossible" to negotiate a budget reduction given the lack of support among other EU nations and urged MPs to back Mr Cameron's call for an inflation-linked rise as the minimum acceptable outcome.

But Conservative rebels said Parliament would send a clear message and strengthen Mr Cameron's hand if they backed a spending cut.

"If you think the EU has too much money, its budget is too large and it needs to be cut, then vote for the amendment," Conservative MP Mark Reckless, who spearheaded the rebel position, told MPs.

After the vote, Mr Reckless told the BBC that the UK was "fed up" of giving more money to the EU every year and MPs had made clear a budget cut was the "only thing" they would accept.

"What this is about is our constituents' money," he said. "Parliament has spoken very clearly that unless there is a deal which is a cut in the budget which gives money back to taxpayers in this country, it will not get through Parliament."

Amid heated Commons exchanges, Tony Baldry - who was a minister in the government of John Major that was riven by splits over Europe in the 1990s - accused rebels of "self indulgence" reminiscent of past divisions.

"If this party hopes to be in government after the next general election it has just got to get a grip and start supporting the prime minister," he said.

But fellow Tory Conor Burns rejected analogies with the 1990s. "This is not Maastricht. The Conservative Party is united over Europe."

William Hague: "MPs on both sides wanted EU spending to be kept down"

'Toughest line'

Foreign Secretary William Hague said ministers would "take notice" of Parliament's views, which reflected the "real concern" among MPs and the public about the size of the UK's financial contribution to the EU.

"MPs on both sides of the argument wanted EU spending to be kept down as effectively as possible," he said.

"The difference in this debate is over the tactics. The prime minister has made it clear that we are already going for the toughest position that any prime minister has gone for in EU budget negotiations."

Start Quote

A government that is trying to deliver the toughest budget settlement in Europe in history is strong and purposeful and doing the right thing for the country”

End Quote William Hague Foreign Secretary

It was "hard to see" other EU nations agreeing to cut spending since most were net gainers from the budget, he added: "Yes, we would love it if that budget went down but all the other countries have a veto as well."

And he rejected suggestions that the defeat showed the government's weakness over Europe and the leadership's inability to control its MPs.

"I would say a government that is trying to deliver the toughest budget settlement in Europe in history is strong and purposeful and doing the right thing for the country."

He also accused Labour of "very cheap politics" by voting for a budget cut after supporting huge increases in EU finances over the last decade.

But shadow chancellor Ed Balls said there had been cross-party support for the idea of reducing EU expenditure at a time of austerity at home.

"It is not about party politics, it is about the national interest. Parliament has spoken and David Cameron has got to listen and deliver.

"He has to put the national interest first if he is strong enough. I fear he may be too weak."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Sorry but this "Opportunism" tune that Tory/UKIP voters are Air Guitaring to is a nonsense.
    Less we Forget ! The Opportunism the Tories made of Squaddies dying in the Gulf and Afghanistan.Since may 2010 I have never heard the terms "Lack of Kit" being mentioned in the Press or from a tory's mouth.All of a sudden those Officers who became Tory MP's and Peers have forgotten about lack of kit. hmm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    I see 4 types of post here. The rich philanthropist's, The Pro Euro come what mays and the realist's and the foolish. The clever among you will spot that 2 of these types are the same with different labeling. Get real you wouldn't ask a pal that was down on his luck and struggling with bills to give you money simply just to waste would you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    The EU needs to wake up and realise that 'austerity' applies to their spending as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    147. teddy555
    UKIP is the way to go for common sense .
    There is nothing sensible about BNP-UKIP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    21 Minutes ago
    Perhaps if we had been more at the heart of, rather than thinking ourselves above Europe post 1945 we might have had a lot more clout & say in shaping & steering Europe (like the Germans do).

    The Germans were trying to shape & steer Europe pre-1945. The EU is their way of achieving politically what they failed to achieve by military force.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    This shameful hyposcisy by Labour, quite laughable.

    As was pointed out today on the Daily politics, It will be like John Major in the 90's soon people will not remember Labours part in this, they will remember it as the prime minister being defeated by the Eurosceptics in his own party

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    @118 Boyd. "Britain is a small island off the coast of Europe"

    Wrong. Britain is a large island - the ninth largest in the world and the largest in Europe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    What is the point of a democracy, when people only care for themselves? Nurses vote for NHS. Teachers vote for Schools. Students for vote for free everything. Grow up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    The EU was originally a catholic club.That is why Tony Blair gave away our rebate. He also with Gorden Brown sold off 1/2 our gold reserves to prop up the euro. Not long after Tony Blair, stepped down as PM, he became a catholic. This was planed when he became Prime Minister. A catholic can not become a Prime Minister, because they wont swear allegiance to the Queen

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Something which I think has not been reported by the BBC:

    According to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung Merkel is threatening to boycott the coming "EU"-summit if Cameron refuses to agree to a moderate increase.

    I say let her do it so that all can see how dictatorial she is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    144 Do you not think the timing is the main issue here?

    The EU brings a lot of money to the British economy through jobs and trade but as they're forcing austerity on member states it is a bit rich to award themselves an increase at this time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Not only should we not be agreeing to send More money, we should not be sending any at all!

    The best thing for Great Britain would be to get out of the EU - it's a toxic relationship and we are being cheated on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    --those treacherous assassins are everywhere !

    --treachery from within.

    The counter attack is already being planned --with unlikely allies.

    -- The remnants of British industry and the Unions. Foreign companies are planning their escape onto the ´Mainland´.

    All is quiet on the ´Western Front´--let the ´Battle for Britain ´begin.

    --as Cameron says " you too Hague ?" -- collapsing.

  • Comment number 154.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    147. teddy555
    For goodness sake lets out of the EU now . UKIP is the way to go for common sense . The PM is not full of gut and we need a straight talking man or woman who is not afraid of the EU.
    There's nothing to be afraid of. It's just what Farage wants you to believe. He's got nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    #59. What is a Little Englander? Us sceptics believe in trading with the world, including Europe, but aren't so narrowly focussed. Can we be Big Englanders please? When it comes to fantasy lands, look the other side of the Channel, where things seemingly are not so bad that more spending (which got us into the mess) is judged a good thing. Nb.The EU is now a political union, not an economic one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    "We don;t need the EU. We have the rest of the world to trade with."

    We can still deal with EU countries from outside the EU, just like China et al.

    But the biggest risk to the global economy is the huge financial crisis within the EU - like a timebomb waiting to go off, and we need to be careful how close we are to it. Many other places around the world are in growth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    Somebody needs to tell these elites at the Euro Summit to practice what they preach enforcing austerity on the med nations and then greedly handing the begging bowl for a bigger budget. No chance you bunch of charlatans cut the EU budget at the same rate as Greece is cutting. Cameron should have the guts tell them some home truths no more money cut your salaries by 50%.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    I am pro-EU. Agree with the arguments that we will be far better off being in than out. However, the EU needs to accept that everyone is working with less money and they need to do the same. They also need to get their financial audits sorted. Until they start to behave with proper responsibility it is going to be very hard to persuade the anti-EU people here that they should change sides.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    130. SpeakerOfTruth
    If the EU was such a great thing we wouldn't be having this debate.
    It's a crisis. Not the first one and not the last. Before this crisis the EU was doing quite well, despite some corrupt lowlifes like the recently convicted Berlusconi almost ruining it. The EU will come out of this stronger and cleaner. Britain should stop dithering. We are Europe.


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