12 Oct 2011 06:57:00

'Fresh Start Project' publishes goal of new UK-EU relationship

By Tim Montgomerie
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On the 12th September more than one hundred Tory MPs met for the first ever meeting of the Fresh Start Project. The launch meeting of that new Eurosceptic grouping was reported at the time by Anthony Browne. Two Labour MPs have now agreed to caucus with the group - Frank Field and Gisela Stuart.

The Fresh Start Project's mission has been sent to ConHome: 

"UK citizens want co-operation and free commerce with our EU partners, but a majority believes that too much power has been transferred to the EU; in areas ranging from policing to employment law, from Health and Safety to petty regulation, our citizens want more control over their own lives.

The euro-zone crisis threatens to overturn the historic agreement that tax and spending are the sole responsibility of national governments. This makes the time ripe for a new relationship with our EU partners, in which the UK can take more decisions and Brussels fewer; this would be in line with the basic principle that the authority to pass laws should be democratically accountable to those who are affected by them.

MPs across all parties are determined to work together to:

  1. examine the options for a new UK-EU relationship that would better serve the interests of UK citizens
  2. examine the options for a new UK-EU relationship that would better serve the interests of UK citizens
  3. set out what this new relationship could look like and
  4. establish a process for achieving the change."


"Today, Europe is an issue that unites Conservatives rather than one which divides us."

"At times of crisis, the future belongs to those with both a viable plan and the political will to press for that plan to be adopted.  Now that the EU’s flagship policy, the euro, is in crisis it is a time for Britain to show leadership in Europe and to demonstrate what the EU should be for in the 21st century.  It is not a time to try to avoid discussion.

Continue reading "'Fresh Start Project' publishes goal of new UK-EU relationship" »

12 Jul 2011 15:42:16

Tory MP attacks "sneaky" whips for changing time of IMF bailout vote

By Tim Montgomerie
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I've already reported that 32 Tory MPs voted against the Coalition's plan to lodge another £9.3 billion with the IMF. This money can be used by Christine Lagarde, the new pro-€uro head of the Fun, for future bailouts. The 32 Tory MPs were only part of the rebellion. At least fifty others didn't vote. There is also unhappiness at the way the whips changed the scheduling of the vote. This was what one Tory rebel emailed me:

"The government chose to sneak this through a Statutory Instrument committee which are generally for routine tinkering not £9 billion of taxpayers' money. Despite the opposition, and the whips saying they were undecided on whether to allow a debate, they sneaked it on to the order paper yesterday (it wasn’t there on Thursday or in last week’s future business) and then exceptionally scrapped the usual deferred division rules to make the vote last night rather than Wednesday. It’s all hardly new politics and doesn’t suggest that they were convinced of their own arguments. If we can find time today to debate a vote of thanks for the over-paid clerk, and a full day to reform a couple of million that is the civil list, surely we can find time to debate £9 billion!"

Over at the BBC the brilliant Mark D'Arcy is also on the case and blogs that Eurosceptic Tories are confident of defeating the Coalition if it returns to the Commons for more funds:

"The unofficial eurosceptic whips take some heart from running the Government so close. They admit to having been caught flatfooted by the timing of the vote and promise to be more alert in the future, Their expectation is that more demands for bailout cash will arrive in due course, and they will be able to defeat them, if Labour sticks to the line it took last night."

16 Jun 2011 05:24:30

Pro-European Tories, including Brittan and Heseltine, join with Lib Dem peers to defeat referendum lock

By Tim Montgomerie
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The House of Lords is becoming a problem. Inspired by such premier league Yellow B**tards as Lord Oakeshott the Upper House is overstepping its reforming, amending role and is in danger of becoming a roadblock to important Coalition reforms, including with respect to the NHS and elected police chiefs.

Yesterday, in alliance with pro-EU Conservatives, Liberal Democrat peers helped amend the European Union Bill to ensure that the referendum lock expired at the end of this parliament. The whole point of William Hague's referendum lock is that it ensures all future parliaments cannot make significant transfers of future powers to the EU without the consent of the British people. The usefulness of the lock had already been questioned by Eurosceptics and it looks much more vulnerable today.

HESELTINE-MICHAEL-NN The anti-Hague amendment was passed by just 209 to 203 votes. Among the 209 were the biggest beasts of the pro-EU Tory years, including Leon Brittan, Lord Debden (formerly John Gummer), Lord Heseltine, Baroness Howe, and Lord Jopling. They were joined by many Labour peers but also Liberal Democrats including Lord Oakeshott, Baroness Williams, Lord Maclennan and Lord Steel.

Continue reading "Pro-European Tories, including Brittan and Heseltine, join with Lib Dem peers to defeat referendum lock" »

8 Jun 2011 17:34:56

European Parliament: Conservative MEPs vote against new European budget increases

By Matthew Barrett
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6a00d83451b31c69e20147e31f9807970bToday in Strasbourg, the European Parliament adopted proposals to increase the EU budget, introduce a financial transaction tax, abolish national rebates, impose direct EU taxes and end the returning of unspent EU money to national governments.

The European Parliament set out its priorities for the next seven-year budget plan, known as the "multi annual financial framework" (MFF). Although the EU works on annual budgets, the budgets are set within the longer-term MFF. Current debates concern the next MFF, which will be in operation 2014-2020.

The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, of which the Conservative Party is the largest party, voted against the proposals. There were, in total, 468 votes in favour and 134 against. Labour and UKIP also voted against the proposals, with the Lib Dems a mixture of for and abstaining. Edward McMillan-Scott, who was elected as a Conservative in 2009 before defecting to the Lib Dems, voted for the proposals. 

The ECR put down an amendment to the proposals, which said:

Is therefore of the firm opinion that freezing the next MFF at the 2013 level, as demanded by some Member States, is a viable option; welcomes the letter from the five Heads of Government – those of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland – and shares the opinion that commitment appropriations over the next multiannual financial framework should not exceed the 2013 level, with a growth rate below the rate of inflation

This amendment was defeated by 540 votes to 104, with Labour MEPs voting for the amendment, UKIP against, and the Lib Dems divided between abstaining and voting against it. Edward McMillan-Scott voted against the amendment. 

Continue reading "European Parliament: Conservative MEPs vote against new European budget increases" »

8 Jun 2011 07:21:00

Government unlikely to be defeated by alliance of Labour and Tory rebels on €uro bailouts

by Paul Goodman
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I asked recently whether Labour will join with Conservative Euro-sceptics in the Commons to stop bailouts to EU countries.  The question was based on newspaper reports claiming that Ed Balls is aiming to achieve this outcome.  I have done a bit of work on the numbers, and present my conclusions below.

But first, a warning.  Last December, 27 Conservative MPs backed an amendment from Douglas Carswell to the Loans to Ireland Bill to give Parliament the final say on the interest rate on the Irish loan.  However, a vote on further bailouts may not take place at all.

This is because such bailouts would be supported partly by the European Financial Stability Mechanism, in which Britain participates.  The EFSM is funded by the European Commission by borrowing from capital markets.  British taxpayers stump up only in the event of defaults.

Further bailouts would thus not require a bill.  Indeed, the Government presumably believes that they wouldn't require a vote at all (since Britain's participation in the EFSM is already a done deal, agreed by Alistair Darling during his last days as Chancellor).

However, some Euro-sceptic MPs would certainly argue otherwise.  My view is that one can never be quite sure what will happen in Parliament - especially since the advent of the new backbench business committee, which provided the debates on which MPs voted on bailouts and votes for prisoners.

Continue reading "Government unlikely to be defeated by alliance of Labour and Tory rebels on €uro bailouts" »

25 May 2011 07:28:32

Chris Heaton-Harris explains why he watered down Mark Reckless's motion on Eurozone bailouts

By Jonathan Isaby
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We have already highlighted the result of the vote of yesterday's debate on the future use of the European Financial Stability Mechanism to bail out eurozone countries, which saw a rebellion by thirty Conservative MPs.

As I explained yesterday afternoon, Mark Reckless MP proposed a motion that would have required the Government to place the EFSM on the agenda of the next meeting of the Council of Ministers or the European Council and effectively mandated British ministers to vote against continued use of the EFSM unless a Eurozone-only arrangement relieving the UK of liability had been agreed. Reckless wrote about it for ConHome on Monday.

However, Daventry MP Chris Heaton-Harris - at the behest of Tory whips, according to a variety of sources - tabled an amendment signed by a large number of fellow backbenchers which watered down the original motion, instead merely urging the Government to raise the issue and expressing support for "any measures which would lead to an agreement for a Eurozone-only arrangement".

Clacton MP Douglas Carswell, a signatory to the Reckless motion, was incandescent.

Continue reading "Chris Heaton-Harris explains why he watered down Mark Reckless's motion on Eurozone bailouts" »

24 May 2011 20:10:02

27 30 Tory MPs rebel on EU bailouts motion

By Tim Montgomerie 
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Wednesday 6am NB The original list as taken from the People's Pledge failed to include four of those who rebelled yesterday. They have now been added and highlighted. Apologies for the oversight.


Via The People's Pledge here are the Tory MPs who backed Mark Reckless against government attempts to dilute his EU bailouts motion:

  1. Steve Baker
  2. Andrew Bingham
  3. Peter Bone
  4. Douglas Carswell
  5. William Cash
  6. James Clappison
  7. Philip Davies
  8. David Davis
  9. Nick de Bois
  10. Richard Drax
  11. Zac Goldsmith
  12. James Gray
  13. Gordon Henderson
  14. Philip Hollobone
  15. Bernard Jenkin
  16. Edward Leigh
  17. Anne Main
  18. Jason McCartney
  19. Karl McCartney
  20. David Nuttall
  21. Andrew Percy
  22. Mark Reckless
  23. John Redwood
  24. Jacob Rees-Mogg
  25. Bob Stewart
  26. Justin Tomlinson
  27. Andrew Turner
  28. Martin Vickers
  29. Charles Walker
  30. Dr. Sarah Wollaston

Continue reading "27 30 Tory MPs rebel on EU bailouts motion" »

12 Jan 2011 06:47:45

27 Tory MPs back Bill Cash's amendment on reaffirmation of parliamentary sovereignty

By Jonathan Isaby

Bill Cash Yesterday saw a whole day's debate in committee on the floor of the House on the European Union Bill, principally considering Bill Cash's amendment, which would have added to Clause 18 of the Bill:

"The sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament is hereby reaffirmed."

We covered the issues involved in yesterday's ToryDiary on the subject, and Cash's lengthy speech to his amendment can be read here, with Europe Minister David Lidington's reply to the debate here.

The amendment was defeated by 314 votes to 39, with 27 Tory MPs backing it, namely (* denotes 2010 intake):

  1. Steve Baker*
  2. Brian Binley
  3. Peter Bone
  4. Andrew Bridgen*
  5. Douglas Carswell
  6. Bill Cash
  7. Chris Chope
  8. James Clappison
  9. David Davis
  10. Richard Drax*
  11. Zac Goldsmith*
  12. Gordon Henderson*
  13. Philip Hollobone
  14. Bernard Jenkin
  15. Chris Kelly*
  16. Edward Leigh
  17. Julian Lewis
  18. Jason McCartney*
  19. David Nuttall*
  20. Mark Reckless
  21. John Redwood
  22. Richard Shepherd
  23. Sir John Stanley
  24. Sir Peter Tapsell
  25. Andrew Turner
  26. Charles Walker
  27. John Whittingdale

They were joined by 8 Labour MPS,  5 DUP MPs and 1 Independent MP.

It was the first time that Bernard Jenkin, Chris Kelly*, Edward Leigh, Sir John Stanley and John Whittingdale have rebelled on a European issue this Parliament.

Conversely, three of those who have rebelled in at least two of the three previous Euro rebellions (see here for previous European rebellions this Parliament) failed to back Cash's move: Philip Davies did not participate in the vote (I do not know his reason - he may have been on parliamentary or constituency business out of Westminster) whilst both Andrew Percy and Martin Vickers both voted with the Government.

2 Jan 2011 17:55:53

Is a Commons defeat on Europe really on the cards for David Cameron?

By Jonathan Isaby

Picture 9Today's Sunday Telegraph splashed on Melissa Kite's story suggesting that David Cameron "faces the prospect of an embarrassing defeat on Europe" when a Committee of the Whole House debates amendments to the European Union Bill on Tuesday 11th January.

The Bill introduces the "referendum lock" on the future transfer of powers to Brussels and - as Martin Howe noted this morning here on ConHome - seeks to make it explicitly clear that laws emanating from the EU have effect within the UK only for so long as that remains the will of Parliament.

However, the Telegraph reports that Bill Cash has tabled amendments to the Bill to further strengthen it by "reaffirming the supremacy of the UK Parliament" over British law.

But how real is the prospect of the Government being defeated on a European matter? The Coalition has a working Commons majority of 84, meaning that on a full turnout of MPs, at least 43 Government backbenchers would need to vote against a measure to raise the possibility of defeat.

Liberal Democrat MPs cannot be expected to do anything but back the Government in the face of a eurosceptic rebellion on European matters. The Telegraph suggests that Labour are open to backing Tory eurosceptic rebels on this matter, although it is surely unlikely that Labour would repeat its feat from the tuition fees vote and deliver a 100% turnout of its MPs. Then there are the assorted nationalists and Unionists to factor into the equation.

Thus far there have been three noteworthy Tory rebellions on European issues since the general election**:

  1. July 14th - 6 Conservative MPs opposed a motion supporting the establishment of the EU External Action Service, with one (Justin Tomlinson) registering a positive abstention by voting in both lobbies.
  2. October 13th - 37 Conservative MPs voted for an amendment to a motion tabled by Douglas Carswell demanding a reduction in the EU Budget contribution - although a further 12 had signed the amendment but did not in the event vote for it.
  3. November 11th - 25 Conservative MPs opposed a motion noting European Union documents relating to the co-ordination of economic policy in the EU.

** A fourth division relating to matters European - namely a motion tabled on December 14th supporting the Government's approach of working closely with the European Commission to deliver a strong, principles-based framework for financial sector corporate governance - saw just one Tory MP, Philip Hollobone, registering a vote against.

So who were they? (2010 intake are marked with an asterisk*)

Continue reading "Is a Commons defeat on Europe really on the cards for David Cameron?" »

9 Nov 2010 11:40:30

Douglas Carswell and John Redwood pile pressure on Cameron over EU Economic Governance

By Tim Montgomerie

Who has the real power in UK-EU relations? Douglas Carswell, noting that policy towards the EU seems to more or less stay the same whichever party is in power, argues that the UK's Permanent Representative at the EU holds significant power. It reminds me of that Yes, Minister sketch when Sir Humphrey Appleby says that it is much better that civil servants and teacher unions decide education policy because ministers are always changing.

Acting on his instincts Douglas Carswell has teamed up with a few other Eurosceptic Tories - Steve Baker, Philip Davies, David Davis, Richard Drax, Zac Goldsmith, Chris Heaton-Harris, Philip Hollobone, Mark Reckless and Charles Walker - to table a motion on today's Commons Order Paper calling for the UK Permant Representative to answer questions at the bar of the House.

It won't happen, of course, but the UK's Permanent Rep should be accountable to MPs.

John Redwood is also on the warpath. He has been looking at the detail of the new economic surveillance powers that Brussels and Angela Merkel want. He concludes they are unacceptable and blogs:

"The UK is exempted from the sanctions and enforcement measures, but is still part of this big increase in economic surveillance and common policy making. If it is all as harmless and unimportant as the governemnt says, why don’t we just exempt ourselves from the whole thing, and demand powers back in return for any assent to a new Treaty?"

Meanwhile, on Planet European Parliament, MEPs are insisting that they want more than a 2.9% increase in their annual budget. Unacceptable as a further budget increase is, it must not distract us from the real issue. Cameron wants us all focused on the budget debate. The real issues are the new economic surveillance powers and the failure of the Coalition to use Merkel's Treaty amendment to negotiate repatriation of some powers (as the Tory manifesto promised to do). Nick Clegg, in an interview with Friday's FT, made it clear that repatriation was not acceptable to him. The Tory Mainstream must make it clear that the economic surveillance powers are unacceptable to them.

1 Nov 2010 16:30:46

David Cameron mocked by Ed Miliband for abandoning campaign to freeze EU budget

By Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2010-11-01 at 15.32.26 Highlights, not verbatim.

David Cameron used his statement to say (1) that the UK had successfully led negotiations which were likely to limit the EU's budget increase to 2.9% and (2) future budget settlements for the EU will be related to the pressures facing individual nation states.

He notes that if the Council of Ministers and European Parliament cannot agree on 2.9% there will be "deadlock" and this year's budget will continue into the next year - an effective freeze.

The Prime Minister also said that his talks with Chancellor Merkel over the weekend have produced ideas for greater transparency in the EU budget so that taxpayers can see how their money is used by European institutions.

On Herman Van Rompuy's economic governance report, Mr Cameron said that the UK was fully exempt from new enforcement measures. Britain would not have to submit more economic information to the EU than it already supplies to, for example, the IMF.

On the EU Treaty amendment sought by Germany, Mr Cameron said that it would exempt Britain from having to bailout the €urozone in future and would improve €urozone governance. Britain would not lose any sovereignty from the amendment and there would be no need, therefore, for a referendum.


Screen shot 2010-11-01 at 15.42.39 In responding to the statement Ed Miliband asked if Mr Cameron had raised the issue of the proposed Treaty change to attempt to repatriate powers or had he been silent?

Mr Miliband then quoted a number of times in which David Cameron had said he wanted a freeze in the budget. He also said that Conservatives had previously voted against a 2.9% increase. When did he change his mind?, the Labour leader demanded. He wanted to say "no, no, no" to an increase in the EU budget but he ended up with "no, maybe, oh go on then".


Screen shot 2010-11-01 at 15.53.30 Sir Peter Tapsell asks, mischievously, if a German Chancellor can deliver a change to the EU Treaty, it is possible that a British Prime Minister can also deliver a Treaty change? The PM replies that he decided that the priority for Britain should be budget restraint from the EU and he had delivered that.


Charles Kennedy, Ming Campbell and Dennis MacShane praise Cameron for his pragmatic approach to engagement with the EU. Richard Ottaway, Oliver Heald and Alan Haselhurst congratulate the PM on his achievements.


Edward Leigh suggest that MEPs be subject to the IPSA regime so that, even if they receive the same money, life will be a lot more miserable for them.


Answering a question from Peter Bone, the Prime Minister blasts Tony Blair for agreeing to surrender part of Margaret Thatcher's rebate in return for a review of the Common Agricultural Policy that came to nothing.


David Cameron rejects an in/out referendum in response to a question from Kate Hoey.


Screen shot 2010-11-01 at 16.20.45 Chris Heaton-Harris asks the Prime Minister to confirm that he has the ability to veto the Merkel Treaty amendment. The Prime Minister confirms that he has this veto but says that because it is only a limited amendment and Britain has an interest in it passing because Britain benefits if the €urozone is a success.

14 Oct 2010 08:49:39

Despite massive whipping operation, 37 Conservative MPs vote to cut UK contribution to EU

By Tim Montgomerie

Yesterday I highlighted an attempt, led by Douglas Carswell, to reduce Britain's contribution to the EU.

The following Tory MPs voted for his amendment*:

  1. Baker, Steve
  2. Baron, Mr John
  3. Bebb, Guto
  4. Bingham, Andrew (not on yesterday's list)
  5. Binley, Mr Brian
  6. Blackman, Bob (not on yesterday's list)
  7. Bone, Peter
  8. Carswell, Mr Douglas
  9. Chope, Mr Christopher
  10. Clappison, Mr James
  11. Cox, Mr Geoffrey
  12. Davis, rh Mr David
  13. de Bois, Nick (not on yesterday's list)
  14. Dinenage, Caroline (not on yesterday's list)
  15. Eustice, George (not on yesterday's list)
  16. Goldsmith, Zac
  17. Halfon, Robert
  18. Heaton-Harris, Chris
  19. Henderson, Gordon
  20. Hollobone, Philip
  21. Latham, Pauline (not on yesterday's list)
  22. Lewis, Dr Julian
  23. Main, Mrs Anne
  24. McCartney, Jason (not on yesterday's list)
  25. McCartney, Karl (not on yesterday's list)
  26. Mosley, Stephen (not on yesterday's list)
  27. Nuttall, Mr David
  28. Percy, Andrew
  29. Reckless, Mark
  30. Redwood, rh Mr John (not on yesterday's list)
  31. Reevell, Simon (not on yesterday's list)
  32. Stephenson, Andrew (not on yesterday's list)
  33. Stewart, Bob
  34. Stuart, Mr Graham
  35. Turner, Mr Andrew
  36. Vickers, Martin (not on yesterday's list)
  37. Walker, Mr Charles

Congratulations to all 37. The whips mounted a massive operation to minimise the rebellion and urged support for an amendment put down by Bill Cash which, more meekly, "call[ed] on the Government to reject European Parliament proposals to increase the budget". That later was passed.

The following Tory MPs did not vote for the Carswell amendment despite signing it:

  1. Philip Davies
  2. David T C Davies
  3. Jackie Doyle-Price
  4. Richard Drax
  5. Chris Kelly
  6. Kwasi Kwarteng
  7. Andrea Leadsom
  8. Stephen McPartland
  9. Patrick Mercer
  10. Priti Patel
  11. Andrew Rosindell
  12. Richard Shepherd

Some might have bowed to the whips' pressure but that won't be the explanation for all. Philip Davies and Richard Shepherd, to name just two, are serial rebels and may simply have had prior, immovable engagements.

Patel The overall debate was a festival of Euroscepticism with particularly strong contributions from younger, newer Tory MPs. One got the sense that the baton of opposition to the European superstate was passing to a new generation. Priti Patel, in particular, was on great form. Here is one extract from her contribution:

"When the Lisbon treaty was passed, we heard claim after claim that it would make the EU decision-making process more efficient and democratic. How can it have led to more efficiency, when the EU budget is due to increase by 5.8% in payment appropriations? Even the Opposition, with their astonishing record on spending and waste, would struggle to justify an annual increase in spending on that scale. I very much doubt that, in the current economic climate, any Department calling for such an increase in its budget would be given any consideration.

The Government's position is to keep cash levels at the same rate as last year, but, at a time when most domestic Departments are looking to make efficiencies and cuts ranging from 25% to 40%, why is the EU not being pushed further? With a total budget exceeding €130 billion, it is not unreasonable for the Government and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, in her negotiations, to pursue the Commission and other member states to make deeper cuts in order to bring down the cost of the EU and to protect the British taxpayer.

My constituents in Witham and the majority of the British public now understand that the Government are dealing with spending, and that spending must come down. As decisions affecting my constituents are taken, however, they will be furious to see that, although they cannot have their new school buildings or road improvements for now, more and more of their hard-earned money is being handed over to Europe."

Credit also to Justine Greening, Treasury minister. She was robust in her statements to the House and was later compared to Margaret Thatcher by John Redwood:

"The last time we had a good battling female Minister who stood up for Britain she was armed only with a handbag, yet with that one piece of equipment she came back with the biggest rebate we ever got: the rebate the Labour party stupidly gave away, and the rebate we need back. That rebate would give us twice as much money as the amount the Government are hoping to save from the cut in child benefit. We know the Minister has the right equipment. She assures me that she has an excellent handbag, so we wish her every success in putting that argument."

Highlights from Ms Greening's contribution:

  • The EU should not be immune from spending cuts: "I will not hide from the House the Government's frustration that some of our partners-and those in EU institutions-do not seem to understand how bizarre it is, when national budgets are under such extraordinary pressure, that the EU should be immune from that."
  • All over Europe nations are cutting costs, but not the EU itself: "If we look at the size of the EU budget, we see that there is a marked disparity between the Commission's proposed budget increase and the substantial reductions in public spending that countries across the EU are having to make. The Governments of, among others, France, Germany, Greece, Spain and Romania, as well as our own, have all announced sizeable austerity measures¸ and the EU as a whole has taken unprecedented action to secure economic stability. Yet the Commission has proposed that the EU budget should increase by nearly 6% in 2011. The Commission's draft budget explains that the proposed increase is driven primarily by pre-planned rises in the financial framework, and by large spending programmes such as the research framework programme. As we have heard, however, it is impossible to ignore other elements, such as the startling 4.4% increase in the cost of running the EU institutions themselves."
  • EU budget priorities, as well as the total spend is wrong: "The Government will not only focus on the size of the EU budget. We also want to focus on its priorities for spending, because it is clear that certain areas of the EU budget simply do not offer the best possible value for money that we should be able to expect. The common agricultural policy, citizenship spending in some areas and spending on the EU's own administration are foremost among them. There is also, of course, the perennial question of why the EU is based in both Brussels and Strasbourg. Critically, we want an EU budget that prioritises economic growth and recovery across the EU and worldwide, just as we are doing with our fiscal consolidation measures here in the UK. We want a budget that is focused on prioritising poverty reduction, promoting stability and addressing the challenges of climate change."
  • The Carswell amendment cannot be supported: "We want to see the 2011 budget cut. The problem with the amendment is that if we withdrew our money from the EU, under its terms that would be illegal. We cannot support an amendment that would make our action illegal, so we will have to reject it, but I can tell my hon. Friend that if he had worded the provision slightly differently, we might well have been able to support both amendments. It is with regret that we have to reject his amendment, despite agreeing with its sentiments."
  • Up until now we don't have venough votes in the EU to freeze the budget: "I should remind the House that when we had the opportunity in the European Parliament to vote against the rise in the Parliament's 2010 budget, we took it. Although the Council had battened down the rise proposed by the Commission, the Government could not accept the proposed level of budget increase and we therefore voted against the Council's first reading. In fact, six other member states joined us: our Nordic partners-Finland, Sweden and Denmark; and the great brewing nations of Austria, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. The Council's position was, however, adopted by a qualified majority, although I just remind the House that we were very close to achieving a blocking minority on that vote; we were just three votes away from doing so-we got 29 votes when we needed 32. That is why we have been working so hard with our European partners to put our case, because we want, at the minimum, to be in a position to have a blocking minority. We really want to aim for a majority, and that is what we are working towards."

* Five non-Tories also supported the amendment.

13 Oct 2010 11:31:36

34 35 Conservative MPs say the EU shouldn't get extra money at a time of cuts

By Tim Montgomerie

As Alex Deane has already pointed out to ConHome readers, while nearly every other budget is being cut the EU budget is allowed to grow. That's right - the same budget that auditors won't sign off.

As Dan Hannan MEP has also blogged, we're cutting defence, housing and policing in order to fund the European foreign service, Europol and three new EU financial agencies.

According to researcher Robert Broadhurst the extra money that we might end up sending Brussels' way could pay for over 6,000 doctors, about 15,000 police officers or 22,000 soldiers.

Carswell Douglas Central Lobby The great Douglas Carswell has said that this is unacceptable and has drawn up an amendment to the Draft EU Budget Bill. It states:

"Line 2, leave out from ‘2011’ to end and add ‘is concerned at the above-inflation increase being made to Britain’s EU budget contribution; believes that, at a time when the Government is poised to make reductions in public spending elsewhere, it is wrong to increase that contribution; and calls on the Government to reduce Britain’s EU budget contribution’."

34 35 Tory MPs (including Douglas) have signed the amendment. As you can see they are far from the usual suspects. I salute each and every one of them and hope the whips don't get to them:

  1. Steve Baker
  2. Guto Bebb
  3. Brian Binley
  4. Peter Bone
  5. Douglas Carswell
  6. Christopher Chope
  7. James Clappison
  8. Geoffrey Cox
  9. Philip Davies
  10. David Davis
  11. David T C Davies
  12. Jackie Doyle-Price
  13. Richard Drax
  14. Mark Field
  15. Zac Goldsmith
  16. Robert Halfon (added at 3pm)
  17. Chris Heaton-Harris
  18. Gordon Henderson
  19. Philip Hollobone
  20. Chris Kelly
  21. Kwasi Kwarteng
  22. Andrea Leadsom
  23. Dr Julian Lewis
  24. Anne Main
  25. Stephen McPartland
  26. Patrick Mercer
  27. David Nuttall
  28. Priti Patel
  29. Andrew Percy
  30. Mark Reckless
  31. Andrew Rosindell
  32. Richard Shepherd
  33. Graham Stuart
  34. Mr Andrew Turner
  35. Charles Walker

Answering a question from David Ruffley MP yesterday George Osborne blamed Labour for the situation:

"Mr David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds) (Con): Our net contribution to the EU is, amazingly, projected to double in this Parliament from £4.7 billion to £9.5 billion a year. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me and many of my Bury St Edmunds constituents that if we are to cut the deficit, we need to cut our spending on the EU?"

"Mr George Osborne: It is good to see my hon. Friend. I make the observation that the situation is, unfortunately, yet another legacy of the previous Government. [Interruption.] Well, Labour Members obviously do not know the history: Tony Blair gave away our Budget rebate in return for the French reforming the common agricultural policy. So far as I have noticed, that deal has not held, and our contributions are rapidly rising. We have made strong arguments at the European level for similar budget restraints in the EU to those that member states are having to impose domestically. Of course, that will be our negotiating stance as we go into the new budget review period."

28 Jul 2010 09:38:44

Theresa May defends European Investigation Order as necessary for cross-border crime-fighting but backbench Tory MPs warn her that it is an EU 'power grab'

By Tim Montgomerie

In the Commons yesterday the Home Secretary explained to MPs why the Government was adopting the European Investigation Order. Posted below are key highlights from her opening statement:

The need to deal with cross-border crime: "To deal with cross-border crime, countries enter into mutual legal assistance-MLA-agreements. Those agreements provide a framework through which states can obtain evidence from overseas. MLA has therefore been an important tool in the fight against international crime and terrorism."

The European Investigation Order aims to simplify and accelerate cross-border crime-fighting: "The process is fragmented and confusing for the police and prosecutors, and it is too often too slow. In some cases it takes many months to obtain vital evidence. Indeed, in one drug trafficking case the evidence arrived in the UK after the trial had been completed. The European investigation order is intended to address those problems by simplifying the system, through a standardised request form and by providing formal deadlines for the recognition and execution of requests."

The Association of Chief Police Officers want the EIO: "The Government have decided to opt into the EIO because it offers practical help for the British police and prosecutors, and we are determined to do everything we can to help them cut crime and deliver justice. That is what the police say the EIO will do. We wrote to every Association of Chief Police Officers force about the EIO, and not one said that we should not opt in. ACPO itself replied that "the EIO is a simpler instrument than those already in existence and, provided it is used sensibly and for appropriate offences, we welcome attempts to simplify and expedite mutual legal assistance.""

The EIO does not threaten civil liberties: "We will seek to maintain the draft directive's requirement that evidence should be obtained by coercive means, for example through searching a premises, only where the dual criminality requirement is satisfied. Requests for evidence from foreign authorities will still require completion of the same processes as in similar domestic cases. In order to search a house, for example, police officers will still need to obtain a warrant. The execution of the EIO must be compatible with the European convention on human rights. That means that there must be a clear link between the alleged criminality and the assistance requested, otherwise complying with the request would be in breach of article 8 of the ECHR, on private and family life."

Continue reading "Theresa May defends European Investigation Order as necessary for cross-border crime-fighting but backbench Tory MPs warn her that it is an EU 'power grab'" »

15 Jul 2010 08:58:15

Votes from Tory MEPs were "decisive" in speedy expansion of the EU's foreign service

KEEPINGanEYE Last Thursday, on the orders of William Hague, the ECR group in the European Parliament, that includes Tory MEPs, voted to support the formal creation of the European External Action Service. I write formal because the EEAS has been in effective existence for some time. The EEAS is a deliberately bureaucratic name for what is the EU foreign service. It has, blogs Dan Hannan, a budget twenty times larger than the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It has 7,000 staff members, operating in 130 global embassies.

Last week's ECR votes were decisive in seeing the EEAS motion pass*. Without ECR support, reports EurActiv, there would have been no decision until the autumn - time, some believe, that could have been used to dilute the EEAS' powers.

Charles Tannock MEP, the ECR's Foreign Affairs spokesman, told EurActiv:

"We were opposed to the creation of the EEAS but we are now reconciled to engaging constructively within the new architecture in the best interests of our countries."

That is an EU-constructive rather than an EU-sceptic position. This is the latest example of the Coalition government engaging with the EU in what it calls a "constructive" rather than "sceptical" way. The ambition is to make arrangements work better rather than delay or frustrate.

This morning's Telegraph reports that the EU desk will be moved to the centre of the UN General Assembly as part of a "back down" by William Hague:

"Baroness Ashton, the EU foreign minister or "High Representative", will be given a special seat alongside a new European UN ambassador with "the right to speak in a timely manner, the right of reply, the right to circulate documents, the right to make proposals and submit amendments (and) the right to raise points of order". EU sources told The Daily Telegraph that William Hague, the foreign secretary, was forced to "back down" and accept the plan as part of the creation of a Brussels diplomatic service under the Lisbon Treaty."

Lidington In the House of Commons yesterday, Europe Minister David Lidington explained this enhanced EU role at the UN:

"Supporting the EU in having enhanced rights in the UN General Assembly is a good example. We want the High Representative to be able to do what the rotating presidency used to do: to speak and act in support of an agreed common position. The Foreign Secretary explained that policy in more detail in a written ministerial statement earlier today. If the General Assembly agrees, the High Representative will have the rights necessary, and no more than the rights necessary, to fulfil the representational role previously carried out by the rotating presidency. That includes the right to speak after the member states have spoken, but not the right to a seat among individual UN members and certainly not the right to vote in the General Assembly. These arrangements will not give EU delegations enhanced rights in United Nations agencies or in other international organisations."

Mr Lidington was also warm about the relationship that the Coalition wants with Baroness Ashton, the "High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy":

"The High Representative has made a very good start to her challenging role. She has an impossible job-almost three jobs, in fact: High Representative, British Commissioner in Brussels and chair of the Foreign Affairs Council. She has been criticised for not being at two different ministerial meetings that were held in two different countries at the same time, but that seems more than a little unfair. I am told that she has 400 days of appointments in the year, and she does not yet really have a proper department to help her. The Conservatives wished her well when she embarked on her task and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I are already working closely with her."

Labour MPs were delighted at Mr Lidington's contributions yesterday. Labour's former Europe Minister, Chris Bryant welcomed Mr Lidington's "conversion". And this from Michael Connarty MP:

"I am sensitive about intruding on private grief, but I am witnessing the acting out of a scenario in which a Minister who takes a very positive approach to issues relating to the European Union is surrounded by a large number of Eurosceptic Members of Parliament who had previously imagined that they were serving under a Eurosceptic Government. The words "a cosy consensus" have been used, but I am not sure that what is happening. I see it more as the sweet breeze of EU realism blowing through the Conservative Government."

CASH WILLIAM In the debate William Cash spoke for Eurosceptics:

"I regard this whole decision as a triumph of European aspirations and European parliamentary ambitions over reality. I am deeply worried about the manner in which this game of multidimensional chess will play out, and I have already indicated to my hon. Friend the Minister my concern about the overlapping functions and the contradictions that will emerge between the necessity of maintaining our bilateral relations with other countries and the extremely ambitious proposals in this decision on global reach. It is phenomenal to imagine an external action service on this scale that would in any way be regarded as not interfering with our domestic diplomatic service."

Tim Montgomerie

* Not all Tory MEPs voted for the EEAS. Dan Hannan, Nirj Deva and Roger Helmer, for example, voted against. I also understand that Geoffrey Van Ordern MEP abstained.