Cameron can talk big, but it won’t help British people

In the last week, David Cameron has made it clear that he is prepared to veto the European Union budget, showing that he clearly hasn’t learned anything from the last time he tried throwing his weight around in Europe.

His veto last December may have played well to the Euro-sceptic audience back home, but didn’t actually achieve anything; the other European governments agreed to go ahead with a new fiscal pact without us. So the only thing Cameron really achieved was the opportunity to have no say at all in something that will affect the UK.

Even his claim that he had still prevented the other European governments from using existing EU institutions for their new treaty backfired, as he eventually quietly backed down.

With negotiations underway for the 2014-20 budget, Labour MEPs have been working hard to ensure that we get a budget that is in the interests of the UK, and doesn’t make excessive demands of national governments at a time when EU citizens are being asked to accept cuts to public services and severe austerity measures.  We are calling for a freeze in the EU budget, and we also want to ensure that a sizeable proportion is ring-fenced for projects aimed at increasing employment.

But this is another thing that Cameron seems to forget – the UK doesn’t just throw money at Europe never to be seen again, we also get a lot back. £10.6 billion in EU development funding for a start, as well as access to the world’s largest single market, estimated to be worth £3,500 a year per UK household.

Still, according to Cameron, the fact that he said, “I’m not signing, we’re not having it,” means that “people in Europe know I mean what I say”.  Does it?  Or does it make him seem like a spoilt child, stamping his foot when he doesn’t get his own way, instead of working with his European colleagues to try to find a compromise.

In fact, the experience of those of us who are here in Brussels all year round was quite different.  Cameron’s decision to flounce out of the room only served to further isolate Britain in Europe and make it harder for us to work for the things that are genuinely in the UK’s interests.

Threatening to veto the EU budget might help Cameron to silence the discontent on his back benches, but it certainly won’t be better for Britain.

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