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
News
Disruption at Waterloo after a person was hit by a train
newsCancellations and disrupted service after person hit by train
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The almost deserted Liverpool Echo Arena on Monday
tvCan X Factor last in the face of plummeting numbers auditioning
News
Kirsty Bertarelli is launching a singing career with an album of songs detailing her observations of “real life”
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • 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: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence