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Government loses Commons vote over EU budget

The Government suffered a humiliating defeat over Europe yesterday, as rebel Tories joined with Labour MPs to demand a cut in the EU budget, beyond the real-terms freeze that ministers think is a more realistic negotiating position. 

David Cameron and George Osborne have pledged to “take note” of the backbenchers’ views, after 51 rebel Tories and two tellers joined Labour to beat the Government by 307 votes to 294. 

The Labour leadership imposed a three-line whip on its MPs to vote for the cut to the EU budget, although it has only symbolic value at this stage – the final vote comes after the negotiations with the European Union’s other members starting November 22, 17 of whom want an increase in the 2014-2020 budget. 

The Prime Minister’s position is that the most he will accept is a real-terms freeze in the budget, meaning a 2% increase. 

Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP who chairs the powerful Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC), is reported this morning to have been heard describing Labour’s position as “hateful” and “outrageous” and saying she was “almost wanting to abstain”. 

Sir Tony Baldry, the Conservative MP for Banbury, was one of the loyalists to speak in yesterday’s debate, saying the party had to start supporting the PM. 

Labour’s Ed Balls said: “David Cameron has failed to convince his own backbenchers, just as he is failing to convince other European leaders.” 

Deputy PM Nick Clegg will say in a speech today that there is simply no prospect of achieving a cut in the EU budget, because of the position of the other member states, and that Labour’s position is “dishonest” and “hypocritical”. He said such an extreme negotiating position would end up with the UK being ignored. 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email 

(Image copyright European Parliament, some rights reserved)


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