Open Europe Blog

Seasoned House of Commons watchers will be well used to the ‘robust’ nature of exchanges between MPs and government ministers, even those belonging to the same party. This confrontational approach is typified by the weekly shouting match at Prime Minister’s Questions, while polite, consensual exchanges are very rare, usually limited to instances where the subject matter is solemn.

It is therefore worth flagging up, especially to international readers, how extraordinary this afternoon’s debate about last week’s EU budget summit was. The deal was welcomed by Labour leader Ed Miliband (who had teamed up with disgruntled Tory backbenchers to demand Cameron pursue a cut rather than a freeze in the negotiations), even if he made a point of not congratulating the PM in person:

“At a time when so many budgets are being cut at home, this House voted for a real-terms cut last October and it was right to do so. No doubt it was just an oversight that in your statement you forgot to express your thanks to members on your own side and this for giving you such a strong negotiating mandate.”

Miliband also added that while the relative drop in CAP funding was welcome, this area of the budget was still far too big given the relative importance of agriculture to the EU economy. Cameron also received praise from Lib Dem MPs including Deputy leader Simon Hughes who said that:

“Both my colleagues here and our members of the European Parliament are supportive of the deal.” 

Cameron also received praise from many Tory MPs, with Peter Lilley congratulated him for “demonstrating that when a British leader takes a resolute, reasoned and constructive approach on what is good for Britain and good for Europe, we can succeed in carrying other people with us”. Significantly, Cameron even attracted praise from rarely pacified better-off-out backbenchers, highlighting how impressive his EU budget deal really is – even if there is still far to go on the substance.

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