Storm looms for PM over EU budget

A new IoS poll shows support growing for the Eurosceptics

David Cameron was warned yesterday that he faces a fresh Commons defeat on Europe by Conservative MPs if he fails to secure a cut in the European Union budget this week.

The renewed threat to his premiership came as a poll for The Independent on Sunday showed nearly six out of 10 voters want Britain to leave the EU unless the Prime Minister repatriates some powers from Brussels. The ComRes survey also showed that a quarter of Tory voters are considering backing the UK Independence Party (Ukip) at the next election, a move that would cost Mr Cameron his premiership.

Mr Cameron will travel to Brussels on Thursday for a two-day summit to thrash out the multibillion-pound EU budget, but there were signs yesterday that he is already preparing the ground for the talks to break down. Officials believe the summit could run into the small hours of Saturday, with early agreement unlikely. A Downing Street source said the talks were going to be "difficult" and that it was not automatically the case that the budget, which runs from 2014 to 2020, would be settled at this summit.

Signs of public unhappiness with the Conservatives on Europe were shown in Thursday's Police and Crime Commissioner elections and parliamentary by-elections, in which Ukip increased its share of the vote and came third in Corby.

As the Prime Minister prepares for his most difficult EU summit since entering No 10, the leader of the Tory Eurosceptic rebels, Mark Reckless, said 60 or more MPs were prepared to block any move agreed in Brussels for an increase or freeze in the seven-yearly budget – a greater number than voted against the Government last month. If Mr Cameron did not wield the UK veto, then Tory MPs would have to do it for him in Parliament, Mr Reckless said.

Last month, the Prime Minister was defeated in the Commons by Labour and 53 Tory MPs, who called for a real-terms cut in the EU budget. With other nations unlikely to back a cut, Mr Cameron will enter the talks on Thursday negotiating for a real-terms freeze in the budget, which costs Britain £5.85bn a year, once the UK rebate is accounted for. The PM is expected to remind the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, that she and nine other EU countries signed up to a letter in 2010 backing a freeze or a cut in the budget.

The ComRes/IoS poll shows growing support for Ukip, with 8 per cent backing the Eurosceptic party, just two points below the Lib Dems. However, 26 per cent of Tory voters say they are seriously considering voting Ukip next time. Some 66 per cent think the UK's budget payments should be cut rather than frozen, while 58 per cent say that if some EU powers cannot be repatriated, Britain should leave the bloc. A significant proportion, 43 per cent, thinks the UK should simply leave the European Union.

The poll also shows that Labour's lead over the Conservatives has stretched to 12 points, its largest in more than seven years. The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, used an interview in The Sunday Telegraph to capitalise on Mr Cameron's problems over Europe, claiming he supported EU reform and sometimes agreed with Eurosceptic arguments.

He said: "Too often, people have assumed that we have to make the rise of Euroscepticism about bendy bananas and bans on chocolate, not the fact that the European budget looks like it's suited to the 1950s and not the 21st century."

Mr Cameron can use his veto to block any budget increase. However, unlike his veto at a European Council summit last December, using the measure this week would trigger a collapse in negotiations, as all EU nations must agree. If no agreement is reached, the budget reverts to an annual "rollover", which would end up costing the UK taxpayer more.

Mr Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood, said: "David Cameron should lead the country along the lines that Parliament determined two weeks ago for a cut in the budget.If the Prime Minister wants to sign up to an inflationary increase, then it would be for Parliament to deploy that veto. There is a parting of the ways between what this country will accept and where EU leaders are.

"It is important that the Prime Minister says, if there is a Conservative government next time round, that we will have a referendum on membership of the EU. He needs to make that clear; he would be better to say it sooner rather than later."

Mr Cameron has tried to stave off demands for a referendum, saying only that when a "fresh settlement" arises from Brussels – unlikely during this parliament – then there would be cause for a nationwide vote.

While some Scandinavian countries are likely to back Britain in calling for a freeze, many EU nations are net recipients of the budget and will be demanding an increase. The EU Parliament, which also has a vote, is calling for a 6 per cent increase.

The Tory MP David Nuttall, chairman of the Eurosceptic "Better Off Out" group in Parliament, said: "I would start by asking for a cut of 40 per cent, in the knowledge that, if he manages any real-terms cut at all, it would be a major achievement.

"I have to say, the more the public is disillusioned and frustrated by the EU, the more likely they are to decide that we would better off if we left."

David Campbell Bannerman, Tory MEP for the East of England, said: "We know that Ukip cost the Conservatives a parliamentary majority in the general election, and my concern is that, if we do not take action to reassure people we are the best party for Eurosceptics, the same or worse may happen in the next election."

The former Tory chairman Lord Tebbit said yesterday: "While Labour seems to have stemmed the loss of votes to the BNP, the Tories are still losing support to Ukip; and, even worse for Mr Cameron, Ukip is strengthening in advance of the 2014 European elections. The Tory cry that a vote for Ukip is a wasted vote may be wearing a bit thin."

No way out for Cameron

Never mind the countless U-turns performed by David Cameron and his ministers, the Prime Minister has manoeuvred himself into a number of dead-ends from which there seems to be no way out:

Europe

It is difficult to see how Mr Cameron can emerge victorious from the EU budget summit: his backbenchers do not want a freeze or an increase, but EU leaders will not back a cut. The PM has form on Europe – desperate to appease his MPs, he withdrew the Tories from the European Parliament's mainstream group in 2009, losing traction with Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy.

Leveson

In July 2011, Cameron ordered a full public inquiry into press ethics, but Lord Justice Leveson's hearings have put him in a more uncomfortable spot than any other witness. Will he back the expected tough regulation, or pay mind to influential newspaper owners?

Energy bills

Mr Cameron's off-the-cuff announcement that energy firms would be forced to give customers "the lowest tariff" surprised the industry, and No 10 had to admit providers would only have to "offer" the cheapest tariffs. Can the forthcoming Energy Bill show how workable his brainchild is?

Prisoners' votes

Two years ago, with officials warning that the UK must fall in line with EU law over prisoners' voting rights, he said: "It makes me physically ill even to contemplate having to give the vote to anyone who is in prison". Last month, the stance hardened. He has until this Friday to submit proposals for dealing with the mess, within EU rules.

Heathrow

George Osborne wants a third runway at Heathrow; Nick Clegg and Boris Johnson want to block it. The PM wants to delay a decision for fear of breaking apart the coalition, but Boris has attacked him for dithering.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with excess, cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?