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 447.

    a bitian first policy will do us no good in the long run.

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    417.Stephen of Woking

    Excellent comment, which brilliantly highlights Labour's hypocrisy and opportunism.

    p.s. you need not be baffled by Labour's economic policy - they do not possess one, but simply blow with whatever wind they think will win them votes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    437.SouthernChav Please spare us the 'Switzerland is better off out' argument.

    Too much of an inconvenient truth for the Pro-Euro lobby? Well what about every other large industrialized nation outside the EU that also hasn't gone bust.

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    As a basic rule of thumb, if the French are in favour of something we should oppose it as it will not be good for us - ever!

    Ditto the Spanish, Greeks and Italians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    The best answer to this EU problem is war, maybe World War 3 will help that way we can get rid of the Conservatives, Labour and Libdems. As for the EU well it is just one big black hole which money is just lost. Plus by getting out of the EU we can legally get rid of all the wanted immigrants in this country

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    Cameron has to go to Brussels and demand a cut he has all the cards now a democratic mandate from the UK parliament and we are the 2nd biggest contributor to this budget if he comes back with anything less he will look like Chamberlain. Experts say if he vetos the budget will roleover to annual payements and a worse deal for UK taxpayer if that happens he should withold our contribution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    9000 years ago UK (just like Ireland) was a part of Continental Europe.

    Fortunately/unfortunately ( depending where're coming from) then came a global warming so many PC folks are primarily concerned about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    All this division within the Tory party over Europe will have the effect of driving their swivel-eyed Europhobe supporters into voting UKIP next time (....a party which have no chance of ever forming a government).

    Tee hee hee.

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    Proves the majority of MP's do not have the country best interest at heart. I suppose one should be shocked, but no, this is basically the same group of MP's that "fiddled" while the economy "burned".

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    Of course Millipede's lot would vote against through Political stupidity, as recent history shows, even before Brown's signing the Lisburn Treaty; however, the Tory rebels show lack of "nouse" and understanding. A move away from the EU, not the Eurozone, would severely damage our trade versatility and we would become a "little" trading country and be worse off. Back Mr. Cameron, he understands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    Please spare us the 'Switzerland is better off out' argument, or the 'we could sell grandfather clocks to the Commonwealth' one. Switzerland is not an advanced industrialised economy with a population of 62 million, an advanced socialised health care system, standing armed forces, a nuclear arms programme and a responsibility as part of NATO to lead the world against emerging international threats

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    Quite amazing that some contributors believe the EU is efficiently run, is the only economy that can save the UK & that "Europeans" have cash to splash on UK exports. Its over. Coffee time. The UK needs to export to growing world economies, reduce its production cost, scrap restrictive EU Directives & generally put itself first because there really is no such thing as "solidarity" in the EU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

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

    Oh, right.

    So public spending must receive huge cuts but EU spending only has to be "kept down".

    Remind me who you are supposed to be representing?


  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    The positive thing about this parliamentary decision is that it speeds up the path to a referendum in Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    Depending on which figures you believe, our net contribution is between £5.85bn and £8.91bn a year. Can anyone prove to Joe Public that the UK gets a return in excess of those figures in trade and benefits a year as a result of being a part of this super state? If not, membership will always be questionable!

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    I reckon Europeans are quietly getting fed up with the UK's behaviour. They receive a fairly high amount of rebates and block them every step of the way. Though I am no supporter of Mr. Cameron's policies, I am very disappointed with this very hypocritical stance of the Labour party, rubbish politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    If Milibandwagon wants to be PM he has to take politics seriously.
    Making his party side with the Tory right to score political points is opportunistic & hypocritical of course, but more damaging than that, I really don't know what he believes in and certainly couldn't trust him to stick to a position.

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    So Millipede & Balls wants to Cut the budget eh ? then you see Millipede marching with the usual militants against any cuts
    This show the total two face hypocrisy of the Labour Cabal and its supporters. So slimy you would only touch them with a stick !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    Now the Euro sceptics and labour have got this vote through, and Cameron has to go to Europe to fight for a reduction.

    There is only 1 main route to take when he is there,


  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    417.Stephen of Woking
    I am now baffled by Labour's economic policy....
    So are Labour...


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