Cameron suffers first major Commons defeat on EU budget vote

Tory rebels and Labour vote by 307 to 294 to support a real-terms cut in the EU budget.

It turns out that the government wasn't bluffing when it briefed that it would lose tonight's EU budget vote. David Cameron has just suffered his first major Commons defeat after Conservative rebels and Labour combined to vote in favour of a backbench Tory amendment (tabled by the aptly-named Mark Reckless) calling for a real-terms cut in the budget. MPs voted by 307 to 294 to support the motion, a majority of 13.

Since the vote was non-binding, the government's negotiating position remains unchanged - Cameron will go to Brussels on 22 November vowing to veto any above-inflation increase in the budget (the rebels, as I said, want him to go further and veto anything other than a real-terms cut). But the result is further evidence of just how divided the Tories now are on Europe. Fifty one of the party's MPs (excluding the tellers) voted against the government, making the rebellion larger than any before 2010, including the Maastricht revolts. The new Conservative chief whip, Sir George Young, has failed the first major test of his ability to control the party.

The result is also a significant victory for Ed Balls, who has long argued that Labour should seek to exploit Conservative divisions on Europe by forming tactical alliances with Tory rebels. While the party is vulnerable to the charge of opportunism, tonight's result will embolden those who argue that Labour should do all it can to maximise Cameron's discomfort in this area.

David Cameron gives his final press conference on the second day of an EU summit in Brussels earlier this month. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.