UK Politics

David Cameron attacks 'Mr and Mrs MEP' book as waste of money

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Media captionDavid Cameron lambasts the EU children's colouring book as "sexist" and a "genuine, scandalous waste of money"

David Cameron has attacked a children's colouring book about "Mr and Mrs MEP" as a "scandalous waste" of EU money.

The UK prime minister said other EU leaders had been "pretty appalled" when he showed them the book over dinner at the summit in Brussels.

At a press conference he also hit out at an "ambush at 1am" over the UK's EU rebate, saying that he always had to be ready to "lock and load" at summits.

Mr Cameron has been in Brussels for a two-day meeting with other EU leaders.

In a press conference at the close of the summit, he hit out at a "sexist" colouring book, first reported by the Daily Telegraph, 15,000 copies of which have apparently been printed for distribution at open days run by the European Parliament.

'Pretty appalled'

He said he had shown the book, which tells the story of a day in the life of "Mr and Mrs MEP" from arriving at Strasbourg airport to choosing what to have for dinner, with captions in different European languages, to other EU leaders who had been shocked by it.

"At first they thought that it was a hoax by the Telegraph ... I had to convince them that it was a genuine, scandalous waste of money.

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Image caption The children's activity book was described as 'sexist' by Mr Cameron

"It is pretty sexist at that - because Mrs MEP stops at 6pm to go shopping, Mr MEP goes on till 6.40pm."

He said "a number of other European leaders" - whom he did not name - were "pretty appalled by this" adding: "This is the sort of thing the EU need to cut out if it is to have any chance of winning people's confidence that it spends money carefully."

The prime minister also criticised a bid to reduce the UK's rebate, the annual £3bn refund on part of its contribution to the EU budget.

BBC Europe editor Gavin Hewitt said that French officials had suggested changes to rural development funds for newer EU member states could change the calculations for the UK rebate - perhaps reducing it by as much as £300m a year.

But Mr Cameron said the issue had been settled in February and he had received assurances from European Council President Herman Van Rompuy that the position had not changed.

He told journalists: "It is immensely frustrating sometimes, the way this organisation works. In February, in the conclusions, it was written that the British rebate would continue as before...

"It is frankly not acceptable for it to be left to the last minute and then an attempt at reopening it, and an ambush at 1am at the end of a European Council meeting.

"I think this is no way for an organisation to conduct itself."

Mr Cameron said the rebate was "completely secure," but added: "I am frustrated I have to go through that battle all over again. But in this town you have to be ready for an ambush at any time, and that means lock and load and have one up the spout, and be ready for it.

"And that is exactly what I did."

Mr Cameron intends to try to negotiate the return of some powers from Brussels before putting the question of Britain's EU membership to a referendum by the end of 2017 - should the Conservatives win outright victory at the next general election.

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