Cameron faces Tory Eurosceptic fury after relenting on eurozone budget rules

Backbenchers attack PM for watering down objections to EU-wide 'fiscal compact'

Brussels

David Cameron provoked a furious backlash by Conservative
Eurosceptics last night after he beat a retreat over his opposition
to the agreement to enforce budgetary discipline in the
eurozone.

Tory MPs who hailed him as a hero last month when he vetoed an EU-wide treaty to save the euro turned their fire on the Prime Minister after he watered down his objections to the "fiscal compact". His critics claimed the gains he made last month had now been lost.

At the time, Mr Cameron insisted other EU nations could not use bodies such as the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to enforce fines on euro members who breach deficit limits. He feared this could harm British industry by eroding the single market. But at another EU summit in Brussels last night, Mr Cameron nodded through the agreement—although Britain will remain outside it. The Czech Republic also refused to sign up, leaving the UK in a minority of two in the 27-nation bloc.

Another threat to the 25-strong agreement emerged when Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, said his country was unlikely to ratify it before the presidential elections this spring.

Denying a climbdown, Mr Cameron said after the meeting: "We don't want to hold up the eurozone doing whatever is necessary to solve the crisis as long as it doesn't damage our national interests." He insisted the agreement among the 25 would not undermine the single market.

The Prime Minister said: "There are a number of legal concerns about this treaty. That's why I reserved the UK position on it. We will only take action if our national interests are threatened. We will be watching like a hawk."

However, there is little prospect that the UK will take legal action – not least because the case would be heard by the ECJ itself, which normally rules in favour of European integration.

Mr Cameron faces criticism over his retreat when he makes a Commons statement about the summit today. Philip Davies, a Eurosceptic, warned the new stance would make the Prime Minister look more like John Major than Margaret Thatcher. "We saw in the opinion polls how popular he was in December. He would be equally unpopular if the British public thought he was going to backslide from that position," he said.

Douglas Carswell, another Tory Europhobe, said: "I don't see how the veto is really a veto if we allow the fiscal union to form, and then find ourselves subject to the EU institutions being used to govern that. In effect we will find that for all the talk of a veto, we find ourselves hauled into this process."

Mr Cameron tried to use yesterday's gathering to build bridges. But there was little sign of a rapprochement with France as he hit back at Mr Sarkozy, who declared in a TV interview on Sunday: "The UK has no industry any more." Mr Cameron replied: "We have a larger industrial sector than France."

There were also tensions between the UK and Germany. A British official cast doubt on the German-driven plan to prevent a repeat of the eurozone debt crisis. "To write into law a Germanic view of how one should run an economy and that essentially makes Keynesianism illegal is not something we would do," the official said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Sport
football
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk