Coffee House

EU budget: Cameron’s leadership under pressure

29 October 2012

8:54 AM

29 October 2012

8:54 AM

David Cameron is already irritating European leaders with his refusal to support any real-terms increases in the multi annual EU Budget, but this week, the Prime Minister is going to come under pressure to go even further and force a real-terms cut. This morning, he has Ed Balls and Douglas Alexander breathing down his neck, with a piece in the Times arguing that a cut is ‘difficult but achievable with the right leadership and the right approach from the UK’. In his own party, Liam Fox says it is ‘obscene’ to ‘even increase for inflation the inflated wages of the eurocrats’ and is arguing in a speech today that weaker members of the eurozone should leave the currency at the same time.

But the challenges go beyond comment pieces and speeches: Tory backbencher Mark Pritchard now plans to force a vote in the Commons on Wednesday to block any real-terms increases in the budget. There is a motion that afternoon to approve documents relating to EU budget simplification and the multi annual financial framework. Pritchard tells me that his amendment to the motion is not a rebellion. He says:

‘This is not a rebellion, but an amendment calling on the government to stand up to an inefficient, wasteful and profligate EU whilst at home people are feeling the pain of budget cuts. Europe should follow our lead – not be rewarded for failure.’

As Cameron will veto anything other than an increase which matches inflation, Pritchard’s motion will not in itself prevent a problem.


But I have learned that there is another amendment from Mark Reckless which calls for the real-terms cut. It is just over a year since 81 Tory MPs rebelled on a motion calling for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, and in those 12 months, the knot of rebellious MPs has grown. This is not going to be a comfortable week for the Prime Minister at all.

These three developments each represent challenges for Cameron’s leadership. Balls and Alexander are the most explicit, arguing that what EU leaders claim is impossible – to cut the budget – is in fact attainable ‘with the right leadership and the right approach from the UK’. Thus if Cameron returns with only his own aim of an inflation-only rise, Labour can claim that this was a failure of the Prime Minister’s leadership. Liam Fox, meanwhile, is not publicly disloyal to Cameron. But he is building a role for himself as a figure around which the right of his party can rally, which in itself is dangerous.

The biggest danger, though, lies in Wednesday’s vote: if Labour teams up with the Tory eurosceptics and supports Reckless’ motion for a cut, then the Prime Minister will find himself approaching the EU budget summit proposing a deal that falls short of the demands of his own parliament.

UPDATE: There’s now just one amendment, and it’s the most awkward one for Cameron. Here are the full details.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Barbara Stevens

    Cameron is begininning to sink his chances of ever winning another election; that is a pity. Had the country in his hands and as dropped it, thanks to his escapade with the Lib Dems, who have provded very apt and blackmail on certain issues. He can pick things back up if only he realised it, by letting this nation make the decision it wants to make, within a referendum on the EU. It is our right to hold one if we feel we are being ignored and our wants not met through government. He cannot keep ignoring us, his party cannot keep allowing him to do so. I don’t know how he as retained his premiership doing as he has; his own members are discontent. They are so frustrated they are now showing some mettle he lacks. My only hope is that they keep up the momentum and put pressure on him to listen to his party; who perhaps as the better ear to the ground than himself. He is making serious mistakes, we should walk away from this coming meeting if we don’t get what we want, the country will walk beside him, except of course Miliband and his cronies. They are far away from what the country wants as usual. I just hope the backbenchers voices are loud enough to make waves and be heard in both houses for all our sakes.

  • Boudicca_Icenii

    Cameron is also irritating British voters with his servile attitude to the EU and his determination to keep us in at all costs …….. with us picking up the bill.
    He needs to remember who votes him into Office – and who will vote him out.
    We want OUT of the EU – sooner rather than later. He either starts the process or we will give him the kicking in the ballot box which he deserves.

  • Charlie the Chump

    Dave was warned, not least in these pages, no policy is always outflanked by any policy so he’s kippered himself with wishy washy handwringing avoiding doing something.

    If Labour go to the polls they could be very electable with this policy, much as I hate to admit it.

  • Coffeehousewall

    Has James102, one of the best and most pleasant commentators here been banned by the Spectator? Shame on you, especially while you allow your pet slug telemachus to post whatever he wants.

  • Augustus

    “David Cameron with Herman Van Rompuy, who he met last week…”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but since when was this man ever democratically elected? Certainly not by the people, but by his own buddies on the European Council, and that is not exactly democratic. It seems to me that not only is the EU out to gag its citizens generally, but is also spending its way into poverty, while the unelected elites in Brussels proceed with their luxury jobs and pensions unabated. Damn them, these inflexible, over-regulatory, corrupt and cursed Eurocrats! Damn their Eurosocialist and federalist aims!

  • Austin Barry

    Back to basics.

    What, exactly, are the benefits for the UK that accrue from the costly absurdity of the EU? It seems to exist solely to provide a comfortable living and pension for battalions of regulation-spouting bureaucrats and unelected non-entities exemplified by the dimly globular Catherine Ashton, the befuddled scarecrow Von Rompuy and the thuggish Barroso.

    The EU orgy is over. Time to leave with one’s dignity intact.

  • Douglas Carter

    Well, according to its enthusiasts in Westminster, the EU is the white-hot centre of the universe, without which the world will return to the stone age.

    You would imagine, with that in mind, that matters pertaining to the EU budget will be at the core of the first question Miliband will ask Cameron at PMQ’s on wednesday?

    You would think that HM official opposition would be urgently, and very publically recommending an above-inflation increase in that budget? Can’t wait to hear that loud and clear come mid-week?

  • dalai guevara

    hahaha – has anyone considered the fact that if it was true that the inflation figures were actually fudged, and real inflation lie by say 8% p.a., that a ‘real-terms increase’ actually turns out to be a ‘real-terms cut’? Surely, the EU apparatchiks have this acurate data that is not available to the plebs.

  • Frank Furter

    Mark Reckless must know that to get a real terms cut would require a unanimous vote in the Council, plus a majority vote in the parliament. That will not happen. Partly because of vested interests of different recipient countries, but also because of the Keynesian idea of extra expenditure to stimulate growth. Weasel words from Mr Ed Balls here since he is arguing a different policy for Europe than he is arguing for the UK. The only thing Cameron can do is to veto the proposal. In which case the 2007-2013 Financial Framework rolls on with a 2% uplift (Lisbon Treaty, Art 312).

    • peterbuss

      That is absolutely right Frank – but you wil lnot be thanked on here for reminding peoploe of facts which are unpapalabke to so many..

  • monty61

    You got the headline wrong. ‘Leadership’ should be in quotes.

  • peterbuss

    This is not even clever politcs. It won’t work. In the event of no agreement on the budget it will increase automatically by 2%. So even a veto will not alter that simple fact.The very idea that eastenr european countries will agree a cut in the eu payments to them is risible.Cuts – or a redesignation of how the budget is spent may well be desirable but it cannot and will not happen at the next summit.The best David Cameron can hope for is the automatic 2%increase in the budget.Labour are simply being shamelessly opportunistic and are not serious about this.Reckless and Fox need to grow up.

    • Vulture

      But you and your tiny and dwindling Europhile minority in the Tory party, Peter, have a clear policy on Europe – its to say ‘Jawohl/Oui M’sieur/ Si Signor’ to whatever Brussels decides, no matter how disadvantageous or downright destructive to Britain. And that’s what you term a ‘grown up’ policy??
      Just for future reference, Peter, is there anything, anything at all, no matter how humiliating to which you and Dave would not agree as long as it was an EU policy?

      • peterbuss

        Not quite so Vulture. I am simply talking about what is achievable – now if I have got the actual facts wrong then please let me know. I would olve a cut in the budget as much as anybody else – its simply that I think that its pie in the sky to think we can get that.

        • Coffeehousewall

          Certainly if we don’t ask for one then one will not be forthcoming. The UK should simply indicate that there is no Parliamentary authority for increasing our contribution at all and then let the rest of the EU members decide if they want to follow our lead.

  • Ninth Legion

    Bent bananas; University Fined for Not Flying EU Flag; the Women’s Institute mustn’t used recycled jam jars – and you suckers believe it all from your anti-EU and right-wing press! Get a life – you’re being manipulated! Personally I believe the UK should be kicked out! Take any criteria you like – transport, health, tax, roads & transport, social infrastructure, social mobility, wage differences, prison population and ratio of re-offenders, child care, teenage pregnancies – all are worse than the rest of Europe. Britain is in terminal decline, and until the UK catches up (if ever) they should be kicked out of the more progressive, more dynamic EU. What’s stopping you from leaving? Maybe big-business that’s recognising all these trade opportunities, politicians recognising all the influence they’ll lose. Join up in a trade bloc with Serbia or Hungary!!!!

    • Colonel Mustard

      “Take any criteria you like – transport, health, tax, roads & transport, social infrastructure, social mobility, wage differences, prison population and ratio of re-offenders, child care, teenage pregnancies – all are worse than the rest of Europe.”

      Couldn’t agree more. And the present state of almost every one of those criteria is due to British socialist ideologies infesting public life.

    • HooksLaw

      criticise the eu if you like – that’s fine, but it was not a Flag, it was a notice board pointing out that the facility was built with 2.5 million of EU funds. And yes l know we contribute to EU funds, but your point is disingenuous.

    • Mirtha Tidville

      Any criteria I like..OK take health…Spain for instance cannot afford to pay its Pharmaceutical bills, and as a result Pharmacies are rationing health care. Hospitals can no longer provide proper care as they used to do….In Greece, they no longer take credit cards, only non traceable and taxable cash…grow up

  • Archimedes

    Surely all this should make things a bit easier for Cameron to negotiate when he has both his own party and the opposition effectively backing his own demands? Germany will have to come to terms with the fact that any real terms increase will be unacceptable to the UK parliament: let the games begin. I’m not entirely sure this was brilliant strategy on the part of Alexander and Balls.

    • Rhoda Klapp

      No, archimedes, because when you turn up at the little club of EU heads of govt nad say you can’t do something because the people or parliament don’t like it, you are scorned as someone not in control of their country and therefore not fit to be a club member. What we don’t realise is that the respects of his peers, those foreign people, matters far more to Cameron than what plebs think here.

      • Mirtha Tidville

        You are so right Rhoda…..Now is the time for Dave to prove us wrong……..Dave Dave…you listening??????????

    • Heartless etc.,

      Easier? The H2B’s last EUSSR triumph was soley due to a now-displaced French Person. Are the forces mentioned here large enough to force the Slippery S*d to do the right thing?

  • In2minds

    Liam Fox dangerous, really?

    • Charlie the Chump

      Only mano a mano in a hotel room allegedly

  • David B

    Everone should read this

    If this is Labour party thinking, then Balls and Alaxander are at the politics bit again, and if they were in power there would be no question of what the EU wants being approved. Are we seeing Labours “One Nation” at work – Say what needs to be said but think and do something else!

    By the way my post on the bog did not appear!!

    • Bluesman

      Irritable vowel syndrome?

    • David B

      Just correct the above, it has appeared now

    • George_Arseborne

      I fail to see what you are insinuating after going through that article. Labour do not have that in house divide like the Tories. They are Europhiles and it does not entails that they accept just all what Brussel says. In a nutshell they can stay within Europe and argue their case rather than behaving confusively like Cameron and crew. Cameron should stop being a humpty dumpty as portrayed.

      • David B

        It’s a case of actions speaking louder than words. When Labour were in power they waved everything through, now they are out of office they are sounding Eurosceptic, but what will they do if they ever get back into power

  • Robert_Eve

    Anything the EU dislikes is OK with me.

  • wrinkledweasel

    Dave inevitably has a public position on the EU and a private one. The trick is to manage both positions so that they are not revealed to be hypocritical.

    And this is what is worrying: Cameron is publicly pro-EU and publicly pro the current budget. It is as close to courting rebellion as he dare get, so what are the chances that his private position is even more Europhile?

    • Ian Walker

      A political strategist would probably suggest that even if Cameron is (or has become) anti-EU, the ultimatum of withdrawal would be best kept under wraps for the moment because a) It would totally antagonize the Lib Dems, effectively paralysing the government until the next election, and b) it would be better to time it for maximum electoral gain presumably a few months before the next election, enough time for the “Hooray we’re getting out” message to build up momentum, and not enough for the lefty europhiles to get a decent FUD campaign going.
      Either way, it makes no sense for Cameron to show his hand on EU withdrawal until the beginning of 2015.

  • Russell

    Cameron could always remind Miliband and Alexander that Labour MEP’s voted for the large increase to the EU budget.
    Labour MEP’s also voted to enforce EU law making Bristish businesses employ a minimum quota of 40% women board members.

    • dorothy wilson

      He should also remind them that Blair agreed to give up part of the rebate negotiated by Margaret Thatcher. In return there was supposed to be some reform of the CAP. Naturally, that reform never happened. So, because of Blair’s weakness, we ended up paying £billions more to the EU budget and received precisely zilch in return.

    • George_Arseborne

      Reminding Labour and Tory MEP that voted for the increase in this budget is not the issue. We want a Leader that can stand up to EU. So stop encouraging laziness with flimpsy excuses. Cameron knows he is a toothless barking bull dog.

    • TomTom

      “to enforce EU law making Bristish businesses employ a minimum quota of
      40% women board members.” which apparently breaches EU LAW and would be struck down by the ECJ

  • RKing

    Now is the time for Dave to prove that he is in support of the British people and demanding a CUT in the EU udget.

    Who is pulling your strings Dave the unknown supporters of the EU or the British electorate?

    You are not listening to the voters on EU withdrawal so can we now add the EU budget to your “Deaf Ear” list?

    I should have a look at the count down chart – 919 days left in office Dave then you are OUT!!

    • Vulture

      No doubt there will be many comments about Labour’s ‘hypocricy’ and ‘opportunism’ and no doubt their pretend Euroscepticism is just that.
      Nonetheless, as Tim Montgomerie points out over at Con Home, it is good politics because it is in tune with the growing Euroscpticism of the electorate, and it exposes Dave’s own hypocrisy over the EU.
      Cameron, of course, is a Europhile currently struggling to pretend to be a Euiosceptic. But no-one believes him and Wednesday will expose ( again)
      what a faker he is,

  • @PhilKean1

    This is but one battle

    – It is the wrong battle. But any battle that takes the fight to Britain’s EU enemy is worth fighting.

    P.S. Labour’s current opportunism and hypocrisy may be useful to those of us who are fighting to return Britain to independence. But we will never be taken in by them.