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26/04/2012 British veto: David Cameron incurs the wrath of MEPs

As the only European leader opposed to a new treaty aimed at saving the euro, the British Prime Minister came before the European Parliament on December 13th to explain himself. At the plenary session this week, MEPs listened attentively to David Cameron’s speech although he did not manage to convince the audience. The majority of MEPs lambasted the “selfish attitude” of Great Britain.

Returning to growth to restore the trust of citizens

While the results of the European Council once again launched a debate on Europe, the President of the European Council was rather reassuring. Recognising that restoring faith in the euro is more difficult than what was initially thought, Herman Van Rompuy stated that this was not the first time that certain Member States have forged ahead with an intergovernmental agreement. He reminded the audience that these were later integrated into European legislation (this was the case of the Schengen Area, for example).

The main agreement, reached at the summit which took place on December 8th and 9th, contained a so-called golden rule limiting budget deficits in the majority of EU countries and was welcomed by MEPs.

They went on however to specify that economic strategies should also aim for a return to growth in order to restore faith among citizens. This opinion is shared by European Commissioner José Manuel Barroso who has also called for a return to growth and employment to restore faith among both citizens and investors.

The British veto broadly condemned in Parliament

Tense debate also took place on the main topic on the plenary session’s agenda: the British veto of a new European treaty.

Overall, MEPs criticised the British Prime Minister’s refusal to sign up to a new treaty aimed at saving the euro. They highlighted this lack of solidarity at a critical moment for the European Union.

"Britain’s isolation shows that the government of this country considers the European Union a simple free-trade area without any thoughts of responsibility and solidarity towards their partners", stated Joseph Daul, president of the European People’s Party (EPP). He went on to say that this action calls into question the "British cheque" – a rebate on the community budget participation that London receives as won by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984.

Guy Verhofstadt also criticized the British Prime Minister’s decision. Very soon, "David Cameron is going to realise that he has made a big mistake", said Verhofstadt, president of the ALDE group. According to the Belgian MEP, the agreement put an end to the French-German efforts to manage the Eurozone. "Discipline without solidarity is not the expression of a real union," he said.

Martin Schulz (S&D) stated that David Cameron was against the regulation of financial markets despite the fact that, in Mr. Schulz’s opinion, they are the ones that through the work of the City have led Europe and the world into crisis. The German MEP urged the European Parliament to make alternative proposals in order to ensure EU stability, to kick start growth and employment and to protect social security.

In the conservative camp, Jan Zahradil, the conservative Czech MEP said that "We do not want to see this ideological tendency where the euro is kept afloat at any price. That is not a policy for the 21st century".

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