Tory MEPs turn on Cameron’s ‘veto’

Conservative MEPs have rounded on David Cameron for his handling of negotiations over an intergovernmental treaty struck last night which aims to shore up European economies struggling in the sovereign debt crisis.

The agreement places strict rules on EU member states’ budgets, with punishments for failure to comply. Every member state except the UK and the Czech Republic signed up to the pact last night.

After a European Council meeting in December where the move was discussed, Cameron made much of vetoing moves to have the strict fiscal rules enforced through the European Commission and the European Council because he could not get assurances in the interests of the UK. It has now emerged the pact will be delivered through the institutions, and that Britain has not stopped the move or won any of the assurances it wanted in return.

At the time Cameron said he “effectively wielded” the veto. Labour suggested the Prime Minister had simply decided against being involved, rather than exercising a veto. Conservative MEPs now claim there has been a shift in policy and that the veto never existed.

Writing for the Daily Telegraph, Conservative MEP and European parliament constitutional affairs committee member Dan Hannan says: “December’s ‘veto’ turns out to be nothing of the kind; at best, it is a partial opt-out. The UK asked for concessions in return for allowing other member states to use EU institutions and structures for their fiscal compact. No such concessions were forthcoming, but we have given them permission anyway.”

Leader of the Conservative MEPs Martin Callanan says allowing EU institutions to be used to apply the compact represents a shift in policy since December’s summit.

He says: “I blame a combination of appeasing Nick Clegg, who is desperate to sign anything the EU puts in front of him, and the practical reality that this pact is actually quite hard to prevent.”

In exchange for allowing EU institutions to enforce the rules, Cameron had wanted assurances that, among other things, the compact would not result in an EU wide financial transactions tax being applied to the UK. France has since said it will push ahead with an FTT of its own. Applying one across the EU would require UK backing, while applying it across the 25 member states would not but would exclude Europe’s biggest financial centre.