Northern Ireland

DUP motion backing PM's euro stance gets Commons support

Nigel Dodds
Image caption The DUP's Nigel Dodds described David Cameron's stance as a 'watershed moment'.

A DUP motion backing the prime minister's stance over Europe has been passed in the House of Commons.

The motion was backed by 278 MPs with 200 voting against - giving a majority of 78.

It commended David Cameron on his refusal to sign up to a treaty at the European Council without safeguards for the UK.

Coming just days after the EU summit in Brussels, the debate could not have been more timely.

In front of MPs from across the house the DUP's Nigel Dodds began proceedings and said the prime minister deserved praise for his decision.

He said "a taboo had been broken" and described Mr Cameron's move as "a watershed moment ".

The DUP deputy leader explained why his party had tabled the motion and he used part of his speech to criticise those who wanted greater European integration.

He said those who wanted closer ties and more regulation had a "blinkered approach".

"True allies"

All of Mr Dodds' seven parliamentary colleagues spoke in the three-hour debate and in turn praised Mr Cameron's decision.

The Strangford MP Jim Shannon also raised the plight of the County Down fishing industry and David Simpson mentioned the agri-food sector which he said was crucial to the economy in his Upper Bann constituency.

South Antrim MP Willie McCrea said Mr Cameron had been given a difficult choice and the "prime minister did what was right and that is not always easy".

Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said those behind greater European integration wanted to create a "bandwagon driven by Germany and France to take us to a European super-state".

Image caption SDLP MP Mark Durkan claimed the prime minister had taken the UK out of important negotiations.

Responding for the government the Europe Minister David Lidington understandably welcomed the DUP's kind comments directed towards the Prime Minister.

His Conservative colleague Henry Bellingham returned the favour by describing the DUP as "true allies". He said the DUP were "consistent and reliable".

However, the Westminster air was not all sweetness and light and Labour's Emma Reynolds, the shadow foreign office minister, was the first to change the parliamentary mood music.

She attacked Mr Cameron's decision in Brussels saying it was not "bulldog spirit", but in her words "diplomatic defeatism".

Failed to consult

Her theme was picked up by the two SDLP MPS who were in the chamber. Foyle MP Mark Durkan tried to dampen any celebratory feelings he detected in certain quarters by claiming that "what the PM has done is to take the the UK out of important negotiations".

South Down MP Margaret Ritchie felt Mr Cameron had ignored the feelings of people across the UK. She said the prime minister had failed to consult with politicians in Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh.

She told MPs that the "government must consider the implications for devolved administrations".

The East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson closed the debate for the DUP and said when it came to Europe the people of the UK had "gained nothing and lost everything". He saved particular criticism for the Labour Party and wanted to know, had Labour been in power, would they have endorsed the Brussels agreement.

The DUP MP also said it was wrong to suggest that Mr Cameron had only used the European veto to appease his back-benchers. Mr Wilson said: "if anyone is afraid of their back-benchers, it is the leader of the Liberal Party."

It was a difficult night for the Liberal Democrats. Martin Horwood, the Cheltenham MP, was the only member of his party to speak during the debate.

He told the Commons: "It's reasonably common knowledge that the Liberal Democrats think the outcome of last week's summit in Brussels was not a good one."

As part of a co-ordinated plan the party's 57 MPs abstained in the vote.