British leaders have been trying to smooth over a split within Prime Minister David Cameron’s party about the EU budget.
More than 50 Conservative politicians voted against the government in parliament. They were joined by the opposition Labour party. They are calling for a real term budget cut for the rest of the decade, rather than a financial freeze.
But Finance Minister George Osborne pledged to get the best deal for the country: “Everyone wants to see a reduction in the EU budget. The negotiations have just started, there are 26 other countries. But let’s be clear: we’re not going to accept a deal that’s not good for Britain.”
In parliament, opposition leader Ed Miliband compared current Prime Minister David Cameron with a former Conservative leader who served just one term in office.
“He can’t convince European leaders, he can’t even convince his own back-benchers. He’s weak abroad, he’s weak at home. It’s John Major all over again.”
Coalition partners the Liberal Democrats are siding with Cameron over the budget issue. But a bigger row over Europe is emerging due to the Conservatives’ ambition to take back some powers from Brussels to the UK.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the idea would be “catastrophic” for Britain’s relationship with the rest of the bloc and could prompt the UK’s exit from the EU.
“You will never achieve (anything) by stamping your foot and saying ‘well we want to be part of this club, but we kind of unilaterally want to rewrite the rules of the game’. You know it’s not a realistic approach.” said Clegg.