Cameron's EU veto statement as-it-happened

Cameron's veto of fiscal plans has caused shockwaves in British politics.
Cameron's veto of fiscal plans has caused shockwaves in British politics.

Every twist and turn of a dramatic afternoon in Westminster on politics.co.uk's live blog.

By Ian Dunt

14:17 - Well it's just over an hour until kick off, but the tension is already thick in Westminster. At 15:30 GMT David Cameron will report back to the Commons on last week's EU summit, where he vetoed the fiscal initiative. Tory eurosceptics will be euphoric, Liberal Democrats will be as uncomfortable as you've ever seen them and we might, if we're really lucky, find out what Ed Miliband's Europe policy actually is.

14:26 - And the early manouvres have begun. Douglas Alexander, shadow foreign secretary, has just written a piece for the New Statesman - read it here - making a "big, open offer to the Lib Dems on Europe". What's the offer for exactly? Well, it's a little muddy, but improving UK contacts on the continent and saving the EU's reputation at home seems to be the sum of it. Here's the key section: "The roots of what happened on the night of Thursday 8 December lie deep in Cameron's failure to modernise the Tory party. Just because he puts party interest before the national interest, there is no reason others should do the same. That is why I make a genuine offer to Liberal Democrats to work with us to try to get a better outcome for Britain, between now and when this agreement is likely to be finally tied down in March. Work can and should start immediately both to win back friends and allies and to consider what rules and procedures can avoid Britain's further marginalisation. My message to Lib Dems would be that, over the next few years, the public will reward politicians who show serious statesmanship, not shrill showmanship in the face of economic events none of us has witnessed before and the outcome of which remains uncertain."


14:31 - We knew there would be an attempt from Labour to capitalise on Lib Dem/Tory divisions on Europe, although I hadn't quite expected the cheeky wink of echoing Cameron's language to Nick Clegg right after the general election. The main issue now will be whether Ed Miliband can clearly express Labour's position - that it would also have vetoed the proposal but that it could have avoided such a scenario through better negotiation and contact-building.

14:37 - We've got extensive coverage of the euro fallout if you need to catch up before the statement begins. Here's our news story from this morning, covering Cameron's statement and potential rebellion in the Lib Dem ranks. Here's a five minute analysis of what the eurozone deal is, what it means to Britain and if it will work. And here's a feature from yesterday on Britain's rocky relationship with Europe. There's a lot more in our Comment and Analysis section.

14:47 - Alexander has been edging towards this position for a day or so, as you can see by the comment he released yesterday, after Clegg toured the TV studios with his 'I would have done it better' message. Meanwhile, there's some interesting stuff from the Spectator over here, saying Tories will be disciplined and quiet in the Common today. "The real Tory celebration of David Cameron's veto will be on Wednesday," it says. "Then, behind closed doors, Cameron will address the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers. With no Lib Dems present, the Tories will be able to thump the desks and be rude about the EU without worrying about what their coalition partners might think. But in the chamber today, Tory MPs are being urged to be calm and forensic."

15:02 - Entirely off topic, but thought's I'd draw your attention to this tweet from government front bencher Claire Perry. "Might be more appropriate for [Labour MPs] Ms. Creasy & Ms. De Piero to stop tweeting on front bench & start paying attention." Quite the wrist slap. In the Commons, Home Office questions are ongoing with the unfortunately-named James Brokenshire fielding jibes meant for Theresa May.

15:16 - Lots of Eurosceptics on the benches. A Telegraph correspondent just tweeted that William Hague's EU special adviser is "running around looking stressed".

15:22 - We'll be good to go in a few minutes. Our correspondent is heading into the Chamber now. We'll have a sketch and comprehensive news coverage once it's all over. Of course, we can expect a lot of questions from backbenchers - that's arguably going to be the most revealing part. Word of warning, once the live coverage starts there'll be a lot of typos here. Apologies in advance. It'll get cleared up later.
15:25 - Lynne Featherstone just said something. She really does have the most appalling voice. I'm going to get a cup of coffee.

15:29 - I can't see Nick Clegg. You'd have thought they would want to put on a united front. Danny Alexander is by the Speaker's chair. The division feels very public. Cameron is looking through his notes.

15:32 - And we're off. Already Bercow has to stop for noise. Cameron says he went to Brussels to protect British national interest. He says the safeguards he asked for were "relatively modest", but they weren't forthcoming so he didn't agree. There's a shout from somewhere. Bercow stops it.

15:33 - Cameron said there were two possible outcomes: a treaty of all 27 countries or a separate one where they pooled sovereignty. Obviously that's the one they went for, despite the fact Britain responded "in good faith, genuinely seeking agreement" with Germany and France.

15:35 - Cameron said he was not going softly on the banks and highlights that European regulations could have interfered with efforts to implement the Vickers report. It's a strong, confident performance from Cameron so far. Sir George Young looks on nervously, George Osborne is mocking Labour front benchers. "Creating a new eurozone treaty without proper safeguards would have changed the EU for us too," Cameron says. "It would have changed the nature of the EU." The current programme is "not without risks", he admits. "I required safeguards and I make no apology for it. The choice was a treaty without proper safeguards or no treaty. The result was no treaty."

15:38 - "We are in the EU and we want to be," Cameron says, prompting mockery on the Labour benches. He wants "the flexibility of a network, not the rigidity of a block". Ken Clarke - famously pro-European - is grave faced. Cameron says the use of EC institutions for the new group "raises important issues". A lobby journalist tweets: "Simon Hughes and David Laws do not look happy. Laws is reading a document, and Hughes staring at PM in disbelief." Cameron says the eurozone needs to get its firewall up , that its banks are being recapitalised. He says the UK position on IMF resources has not changed – he's ready to "look positively" at strengthening it, but they're "for countries, not currencies". A silly point.

15:42 - The Sun is reporting that Clegg's office says he didn't turn up because he didn't want to be "a distraction". Heh. Bercow says the Labour front bench is currently the main culprit of noise in the chamber. Cameron is wrapping up. "I do not believe there is a binary choice for Britain. It is possible to be a full committed and influential member of the EU but to stay out of arrangements where they do not represent our interests. That's the right thing to do." Miliband is up. He starts by "noting the absence of the deputy prime minister".

15:45 - Miliband says "it's a bad deal for Britain". He says the plan won't save the euro or provide growth. Why did Cameron's plan for growth not materialise? Cameron "walked away from the table - few could have anticipated the diplomatic disaster of 26 going ahead and one country, Britain, being left behind". Miliband says article 273 of the European treaty allows them to use the buildings and services of the EC, making Cameron's attempt to delay the initiative meaningless.

15:47 - Miliband says the EU approach couldn't have been a bad deal for Britain, because none of the proposals applied to the UK. He goes on: Cameron could not have done more damage to financial services than coming back the way he did, empty handed and adrift. "Far from protecting our interests he has left us without a voice. The sensible members of his own party understand it as well as anyone." When he mentions Lord Hesaltine, the Tories laugh. Miliband, with some irony, mocks their lack of the respect for their former grandee. Bit of revenge for Labour's booing of Tony Blair during conference there. "The deputy prime minister clearly does not agree. Does the PM agree with that assessment? How can the PM convince anyone else it's a good outcome when he can't even convince his own deputy. A veto is supposed to stop something happening. It's not a veto if it goes ahead without you. That's called losing, that's called letting Britain down. I haven't finished with him yet." Outrage in the Commons.

15:51 - It was "the biggest mistake of Britain in Europe for a generation", Miliband says. Miliband quotes Cameron saying we needed to make sure we were "sitting around the table… we must not lose that." Miliband continues: "Congratulations, prime minister, that's exactly what you have done. Faced with a choice between the national interest and the party interest he chose the party interest." Cameron retorts: "A lot of sound and fury but one crucial weakness. He hasn't told us whether he would sign up to the treaty. Fifteen minutes and he can't tell us whether he's for it or against it. Would a Labour government back it or veto it? If you can't decide, you can't lead."

15:55 - Cameron says he won't take lessons on negotiations from Labour. My God the Lib Dems look depressed. Really grave. A lobby journalist just tweeted that Douglas Alexander "just mocked Cameron for shaking". You can't see that level of nerves on screen. Cameron just accused Labour of "opposing" Britain's interests. That's a bit below the belt. Father of the House Peter Tapsell congratulates Cameron on the "defining moment" of his premiership. Jack Straw, former foreign secretary, stands. He says there was no draft treaty, just draft conclusions. Which paragraphs would have damaged British interests precisely? He says we already had a veto on a financial services transaction tax. The rest is subject to qualified majority. Cameron says merely creating the new treaty within the EU was the problem - without safeguards a treaty within a treaty would have been far more dangerous than a treaty outside the EU, which can't cut across the existing rules.

16:00 - Sir Malcolm Rifkin says the UK and other countries will never accept the single currency or fiscal union. I'm still waiting for a Lib Dem to be called to speak. David Miliband is called instead. He says since 1973 the UK has never lost a significant vote on financial services. Why did he think he would fail where Thatcher and Blair succeeded? Cameron says he's "naive about what's happening in Europe". Extraordinary anger from Labour - literally screaming. How protective they are of their favoured Miliband.

16:03 - Sir Menzies Campbell, former lib Dem leader, is happy Cameron said he should be in the EU and wants that idea to have "wider currency" in his party. What can we do to make sure we're "safeguarding and enhancing opportunities"? Cameron responds with meaningless management speak. Labour's Margaret Hodge implies Cameron didn't do extensive preparatory work". The Barking MP says Cameron might have pre-decided to use the veto to appeal to his backbenchers. Cameron says he went there with a desire to work with other European leaders. Unless you're willing to say no, you don't have any "influence or power". John Redwood backs that, saying Cameron's position is stronger because they know he's willing to say no. Lovely idea, but it doesn't stand up to much I'm afraid, whichever side of the fence you're on. Denis McShane, Labour grandee, says the world believes this is "diplomatic catastrophe". He should take Clegg with him for future negotiations. Cameron says he was the same type of person who wanted Britain to join the single currency in the first place.

16:08 - Online there is considerable praise for Ed Miliband's performance, and not just from usual suspects. Widespread commendations and a few people saying it was his best ever Commons performance. Nigel Dodds, DUP Westminster leader, praises Cameron's stance.

16:10 - Chris Huhne looks resigned, as does Clarke next to him. Chris Bryant, Labour's shadow immigration minister, said Cameron "surrendered to his backbenchers - isn't he ashamed of himself?" Bill Cash, prominent Tory eurosceptic, wants Miliband and Clegg to be reminded that even Heath's white paper said the veto should be used to protect the fabric of the EU as a whole. Everytime Clegg is mentioned Labour shouts: "Where is he?"

16:14 - Online, the questions about Clegg's absence just roll on and on. Denis McShane just suggested that it was actually a good idea for "a Cam-Clegg EU tandem". He said yesterday was like Biden attacking Obama and made it look like Britain was in chaos. "Never before has so much been thrown away for so little," Michael Meacher says.

16:21 - Michael Horwood, another Lib Dem, asks what reassurance the PM can offer international investors. Cameron delivers a predictable response. Iain Duncan Smith, at the bar of the House, is beaming. Cameron said there was "great understanding" in Europe for Britain's position.

16:23 - Labour firebrand Dennis Skinner: "Isn't this the same PM who has been castigating working people for not staying at meetings for their pensions? As Dell Boy would say: 'What a plonker'." Amazingly, Cameron is quite serious when he replies. "I can assure the honourable gentleman I did not at any stage walk out of that meeting." Despite what we've heard about Lib Dem fury, Horwood's was the only vaguely (and I do mean vaguely) critical question. Perhaps they have been told not to be too abusive, just like the Conservatives have been told to subdue their glee - which they're doing rather admirably, I might add.

16:27 - Green leader Caroline Lucas said it was the City which caused the financial crisis, so why does Cameron pretend its interests are synonymous with the national interests? Cameron harks back to how the European initiative would have prevented Vickers. Nadine Dorries attacks the Lib Dems. Clearly she hasn't read the whips' memo. No front bench career for you young lady, although I'm not sure that was on the cards.

16:32 - According to the unspeakable Jacob Rees-Mogg, the PM is "the toast of the people in Somerset". Nicholas Soames' head is shrinking. Either that or his body is growing even larger, which is too impossible to contemplate. Sorry. I got so sucked in I couldn't hear what he asked.

16:36 - "The last time a Lib Dem leader so spectacularly failed to turn up, it was because he was pissed. Nick Clegg doesn't have that excuse," a lobby journalist tweets. Finally! A real critical comment from a Lib Dem! Jo Swinson mentions the Durban climate change agreement. She says "constructive approaches are a better strategy than rushing for the exit". Lots of handbags noises from Labour MPs.

16:40 - A Labour MP just called the Tories the "New English Tea Party". That could have legs. Meanwhile, a Tory MP urges the prime minister not to offer policy sops to "lick spittle euro fanatics" on the Lib Dem benches. I'm not sure what that means but I don't think it was nice. Cameron tells him off for going too far. Austin Mitchell asks something. He looks like he's melting.

16:44 - Interesting from Kate Hoey, a Labour MP who says the majority of the public and most Labour voters back his decision. She wants us to be less 'little Europeanists' and more international in outlook. Stabbing glances from her fellow backbenchers.

16:48 - There are still dozens of MPs who want to ask questions, but the session is dying down now. Gavin Barwell says anyone who is unwilling to stand up to European leaders "is not fit to take up the position of prime minister". OK, we'll leave it there for now. Sketch and news coming up, but for the meantime the headlines are: Clegg absent; Miliband effective; Tories support Cameron; Lib Dems show discipline. OK, that's it from us. We'll see you Wednesday morning for PMQs.
 

 

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