Britain 'to maintain EU influence'

 

David Cameron insisted today that Britain's influence in Europe will be maintained despite his dramatic decision to veto treaty changes designed to save the single currency.

Britain was left isolated after all the other 26 EU states at a crucial summit in Brussels indicated they will now sign up to a separate agreement to impose new fiscal discipline on the eurozone.

The Prime Minister's veto was welcomed by jubilant Conservative eurosceptics as a first step towards looser UK relations with the EU, or even withdrawal. One Tory MP hailed him for showing the "bulldog spirit".

But Labour leader Ed Miliband accused him of "mishandling negotiations spectacularly" and warned that Britain would no longer have a seat at the table when vital economic decisions affecting the country are made.

Speaking in Brussels at the end of the dramatic two-day summit, Mr Cameron denied the charge, insisting: "Britain's influence in the EU will be maintained."

He added: "Of course this does represent a change in our relationship. But the core of the relationship - the single market, the trade and the investment, the growth, the jobs that we want to see - that remains as it was."

And he poured cold water on the idea that his defiance paves the way for British withdrawal or a referendum on EU membership.

"Membership is in our interests and I've always said if that's the case I'll support our membership," said the Prime Minister.

"Membership of the European Union is good for us."

Britain's exclusion from the new arrangements looks set to impose further strain on the already-tense coalition between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats at Westminster.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was among senior Lib Dems who rejected talk of a rift. He "regretted" the failure to reach agreement overnight, but insisted that the coalition was "united" on Mr Cameron's demands for "modest and reasonable" safeguards to protect British interests.

"I think any eurosceptic who might be rubbing their hands in glee about the outcome of the summit last night should be careful what they wish for, because clearly there is potentially an increased risk of a two-speed Europe in which Britain's position becomes more marginalised, and in the long-run that would be bad for growth and jobs in this country." he warned.

But there was dismay elsewhere in the party, with Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies accusing the Prime Minister of "betraying Britain" and senior peer Lord Oakeshott describing it as "a black day for Britain and Europe".

Mr Cameron insisted that he had followed a "combined position" agreed by Tories and Lib Dems and "cleared absolutely between me and Nick Clegg".

"We agreed that if we couldn't secure something that was in Britain's interests we wouldn't go ahead with a treaty," he said.

Mr Cameron's veto - the first wielded by a British PM to block a treaty - came just before dawn after 10 hours of fraught negotiations failed to produce agreement on the safeguards he was seeking for the City of London and the single market.

"You've got everyone else in the room saying give up your national interests, just go along with what everyone else wants, that would be the easy, comfortable, convenient thing to do," said the PM. "But it wasn't the right thing to do, so you've got to stick to your guns.

"It's very important in politics, in life, in diplomacy, you have a bottom line and you don't cross it."

French president Nicolas Sarkozy said Mr Cameron had made "unacceptable" demands for exemptions from certain financial regulations in return for joining in the "fiscal compact" enshrined in the treaty change.

"We were not able to accept because we consider... that a very large and substantial amount of the problems we are facing around the world are a result of lack of regulation of financial services and therefore can't have a waiver for the United Kingdom," said Mr Sarkozy.

Unconfirmed reports suggested the French president told Mr Cameron: "You can't have an offshore centre taking away Europe's capital."

German chancellor Angela Merkel - the driving force with Mr Sarkozy behind the new accord - said: "I didn't think David Cameron sat with us at the table. We had to get some sort of agreement and we couldn't make compromises, we had to meet tough rules."

Hungary, the Czech Republic and Sweden initially held back from the deal, but later indicated that they will sign up, leaving Britain alone outside the new arrangements.

A new inter-governmental agreement will seek to restore market confidence in the single currency by introducing oversight of national budgets and imposing automatic sanctions on eurozone states which run up excessive debts. All EU states apart from Britain will meet on a monthly basis to monitor its operation.

Mr Cameron said he had received assurances from his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte that he would not allow single market issues to be discussed at meetings where the 10 non-eurozone EU members are not present.

But there remains the possibility of confrontation over the question of whether the bloc of 26 can make use of institutions, like the European Commission and its officials, established for the benefit of all 27.

Downing Street said the EU institutions would have to "prioritise" the interests of the 27, but Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso dismissed suggestions that the new group would be legally blocked from using them.

European markets responded with calm to the row, with shares holding firm and even rising slightly over the course of the day.

But Mr Miliband said: "It's a terrible outcome for Britain because we are going to be now excluded from key economic decisions that will affect our country in the future.

"Frankly, David Cameron mishandled these negotiations spectacularly. He has spent many months, not really promoting the national interest, but more interested in dealing with the splits in his own party. That has served Britain very badly and I fear for the consequences for our country."

London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has been a vocal opponent of eurozone fiscal union, said Mr Cameron had "played a blinder", while Tory MP Robert Halfon hailed him for showing "bulldog spirit".

Prominent Conservative eurosceptics applauded the Prime Minister's defiance and urged him to go further in reshaping Britain's relations with Europe.

Bill Cash, the chairman of the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, said the UK was now on a "path towards renegotiating in a fundamental way the whole of our treaty relationship with the EU".

And Tory MP Douglas Carswell said: "The inexorable logic... is that Britain now heads towards a Swiss-type relationship with Euroland."

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said Mr Cameron had put Britain "in grave danger of being on the sidelines with less influence than ever before yet still paying billions of pounds a year for its EU membership".

He added: "We are a step nearer the exit door of the EU. Now David Cameron has to bite the bullet and let the British people have a say on continued EU membership by calling a referendum."

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker