Tory rebels give PM a bloody nose in fight over EU budget

Eurosceptics defy whips and join Labour to defeat Cameron and demand cut in Brussels spending

Deputy Political Editor

David Cameron suffered a damaging defeat tonight as dozens of mutinous Tory MPs joined forces with Labour to demand the Prime Minister presses for cuts in European Union spending.

The embarrassing reverse came despite a concerted drive by the Prime Minister, cabinet colleagues and Tory whips to charm and cajole rebels into line. They failed, and a motion calling for Mr Cameron to press for a cut in real terms in the EU budget for 2014-2020 was carried by 307 votes to 294.

The Prime Minister is arguing instead for EU spending increases to be linked to inflation over that period, warning that calling for a cut in spending is unrealistic.

EU leaders will meet in Brussels later this month for a summit designed to fix the budget amid signs they will fail to reach agreement and the wrangle will continue into the new year.

Although government sources insisted that last night's vote was not binding on Mr Cameron and they would merely "take note" of the result, it adds new pressure on the Prime Minister over the issue.

It was a dramatic reminder to him of the growing strength of Eurosceptic opinion in Tory ranks – and the willingness of his MPs to embarrass him by voting against the Government.

The vote followed a rebellion last year when 81 Conservatives demanded a referendum on the EU.

The difference last night was the Tory Right was supported by Labour – a stance condemned by the Conservative leadership as opportunism.

Mr Cameron ordered an intensive drive by his new Chief Whip, Sir George Young, to reduce the scale of the revolt amid signs early yesterday that the number of Tory dissidents was holding firm at between 40 and 60.

Government whips claimed they were running a "charm offensive" rather than trying to threaten potential rebels. One source said: "The best china was out – Sir George is being very gentlemanly."

Ministers and MPs who were out of London were summoned back to Westminster for the vote, including the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, who was in Poland. The Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary William Hague and the Chancellor George Osborne all met wavering Tories.

One of Mr Cameron's visitors was Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers, who warned him that feelings were running high on the subject.

Smaller parties, including Plaid Cymru and Northern Ireland's Social Democratic and Labour Party, were also targeted by the whips.

At Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Cameron also sent out his most hardline message to Tory MPs that he was ready to wield Britain's veto to block an above-inflation rise in spending by Brussels.

Tory Eurosceptics accused ministers of adopting "pretty low tactics". But one said: "They had no answer to the reality that Cameron is out of step with his own party."

Mark Reckless, the Tory MP who led the rebellion, told the Commons his constituents could not understand why EU spending was rising while budgets were being cut to Britain's public services. He said even inflation-linked rises would see the UK's contribution rising from £9.2bn last year to £13.6bn in 2020, adding: "We simply cannot afford that."

The veteran Eurosceptic Bill Cash condemned the EU for constantly demanding bigger budgets. He said: "The money comes from the taxpayer: it doesn't grow on trees – that's what they don't understand. They are living on another planet."

But the former minister, Tony Baldry, told Tory MPs: "If this party hopes to be in government after the next election, it has got to start supporting the Prime Minister."

The Treasury minister, Greg Clark, said: "If there is no cut or no real freeze, there is no deal. The Prime Minister has a formidable task in persuading other countries of this. He has made a strong start and he deserves the support of this House."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project