The deep divisions inside the Conservative Party over Britain’s membership of the European Union were once again put on public display following a clash between Prime Minister David Cameron and Lincoln MP Karl McCartney.
Cameron poured scorn on his colleague during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on June 8, insisting that the only black hole in public finances would be caused by a vote to leave the European Union.
The Prime Minister was responding to a question from the Lincoln MP who asked him to say that the UK would not pay the EU’s debts in the future in the case of a Remain vote.
McCartney, a Eurosceptic Conservative backbencher campaigning against the government and his party leader, intends to vote to leave the European Union on June 23.
In his question, McCartney stated that the only way to stop debt payments to the EU would be by voting to leave the organisation.
He said: “The European Union recently admitted it now has a black hole in its finances of €24.7bn, around £19bn. Eighteen months ago, my right. Hon friend declared that he would not pay the EU a £1.7bn surcharge, effectively a fine on British taxpayers for growing our economy.
“Yet he was later forced to pay up.
What reassurance would my right. Hon friend give the House that hard-working British taxpayers will not be forced to pour money into this EU black hole if our nation votes to remain in the European Union and would he accept, like me, that really our only option to halt payments such as this is for our constituents to vote to leave the EU on June 23?
The Prime Minister did not hold back in his response, barely attempting to disguise his contempt for the question, and claiming that the only black hole would be in the UK’s public finances.
He said: “The reassurance I can give my right. Hon friend is that we fixed the European budget for a seven-year period between 2014 and 2020, and we fixed a total for that budget that was lower than the previous seven-year period and means that European budgets are going to go down and not up.
“That cannot be changed, this is a very important point, that overall ceiling of spending is determined by all 28 prime ministers and presidents. There is a veto over changing it, just as there is a veto over British rebate.
“The only person who can give up the British rebate is the British prime minister and as long as I’m standing here, and as long as I’m prime minister, there’s absolutely no prospect of that happening.
“Now I will, as he ended his question with a remark, I will end mine with a remark which is there is no expert that is saying that we would make a saving from leaving the EU.
The only black hole there would be would be in our public finances because we’d have a smaller economy, we’d have lower tax receipts, so we’d either have to cut spending or put up taxes to make up for the fact.
McCartney did not appear to be particularly impressed by the Prime Minister’s response.