The rebel amendment calling for a real-terms reduction in EU spending was passed after a stormy debate in Commons on the 27-member union's next seven-year budget and UK contributions.
Westminster's most promising MP posted a good article on the subject earlier today:
Only two areas were ringfenced from the current spending cuts: the NHS and foreign aid. The EU is not on the list. Why should it not take its share of austerity? Let’s not forget that because Britain’s public finances are in deficit (thanks to Labour), we borrow and pay interest on the money we give to the EU every year.
After years of rolling over for the EU while in government, the Labour Party are saying they will vote for the reduction. There’s a whiff of opportunism in the air. Knowing that the Coalition could be defeated, no Conservative will enjoy going through the lobby with the spendthrift authors of Britain’s present financial misery. Nevertheless on this occasion Labour are – even if for the wrong reason – helping the Prime Minister. The stronger his parliamentary mandate to demand the EU takes a cut, the stronger his credibility will be at the negotiating table. Other Governments will know the PM cannot deliver a Commons’ majority for a bad deal in the way Balir regularly did.
Labour's opportunism is truly shameless, but on this occasion I'm happy to see them do the right thing for the wrong reason, and it was heartening to see enough Conservative backbenchers put country before party (many of them, I'm sure, for opportunistic reasons of their own).
What's truly shocking is that there are some MPs prepared to oppose a real-terms cut in the EU budget, but at least things seem to be moving in the right direction.
Here's Daniel Hannan's summary of the event:
For the first time since Britain joined the EU, Parliament has voted in an unequivocally anti-Brussels manner. It won't do to say that Labour's vote was meaningless because its motive was cynical. Of course it was cynical, but so what? The fact is that the party will now find it awkward to back away from its new and popular position on EU spending. Public opinion long since hardened against the EU; parliamentary opinion has at last followed.
Congratulations to Mark Reckless, who has the distinction of being the first MP in 40 years to secure a Eurosceptic majority in the lobbies. Congratulations, too, to all those parliamentarians who did as their electors wanted, on both sides of the chamber – but particularly to those put their constituents before their Whips. The 53 Tory heroes are listed here. Ladies and gentlemen, you are honourable members indeed.