Northern Ireland

DUP help to defeat coalition government over EU budget vote

Five DUP MPs have helped to defeat the coalition government in a vote over its negotiating position on the EU budget.

Image caption The coalition has suffered its first significant defeat in the Commons, over the new EU budget

Nigel Dodds, Sammy Wilson, Jim Shannon, Jeffrey Donaldson and Ian Paisley all voted against the government which saw it defeated by 294 votes to 307.

The DUP joined rebel Tory MPs, Labour and other parties to pass an amendment calling for a "real terms" cut in EU spending between 2014 and 2020.

The coalition had argued spending must be frozen in real terms, as a minimum.

MPs from all parties said the proposed 5% budget increase for the period was unacceptable.

'Historic night'

Government supporters said it would be "nigh on impossible" to negotiate a reduction in spending and urged MPs to back David Cameron's call for an inflation-linked rise as the minimum acceptable outcome.

The DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds said the vote was an "historic night".

He told the BBC that the House of Commons had "asserted it's authority and spoken for the people "

He said he believed the EU budget should "not be different from other areas of spending".

The North Belfast MP said "the clear message sent out from this vote is that enough is enough "

However, the East Belfast MP, Naomi Long, backed the government.

'Playing politics'

The Alliance representative described the vote as "divisive" and said the Labour Party had been "opportunistic".

Ms Long said it was important that when the Prime Minister went forward to negotiate on the UK's behalf he did not appear "to be weakened".

She said the vote had been used by Euro sceptics and people should realise that the UK was in the EU and needed to "engage constructively".

The SDLP leader and South Belfast MP, Alasdair McDonnell, abstained in the vote.

The South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said her party took that decision because they were "pro-European".

The issue had been raised earlier at Prime Minister's Questions when Mr Cameron and the Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, clashed.

Mr Cameron said he would veto any deal on the budget if he could not get a good deal for Britain and accused Labour of opportunism for calling for a cut when it had presided over huge increases while in government.

During a particularly noisy exchange he said that the Labour leader was "playing politics, he is not serving the country".

Authority

In response Mr Miliband said the prime minister had "thrown in the towel even before these negotiations have begun".

Although government whips will be disappointed to lose the vote over the EU budget, it is not binding on ministers.

However it will be seen in some quarters as a blow to Mr Cameron's authority on Europe ahead of key talks in late November.

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