British Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday began a week of intense political infighting over Europe by becoming embroiled in a furious row with French President Nicolas Sarkozy over Britain’s role in talks to solve the crisis enveloping the euro.
The bust-up between Cameron and Sarkozy held up the conclusion of the EU-27 summit for almost two hours, with the French president expressing rage at the constant criticism and lectures from UK ministers.
Sarkozy bluntly told Cameron: “You have lost a good opportunity to shut up.”
“We are sick of you criticizing us and telling us what to do. You say you hate the euro and now you want to interfere in our meetings,” he added.
Yesterday, the prime minister was to face both the largest House of Commons revolt of his term and the largest rebellion of euroskeptics suffered by a Conservative prime minister when parliament was to vote on whether the UK should have a referendum on Europe.
Cameron was to meet parliamentary aides in Downing Street before the vote in an attempt to dissuade as many as 10 members of the government minded to rebel against the prime minister, requiring them to resign their posts. The government is sticking to its decision to impose a three-line whip on MPs to vote against the motion despite criticism it has been too heavy-handed.
Officials who witnessed the angry exchanges between Cameron and Sarkozy said the prime minister insisted that the package to be adopted tomorrow by the 17 eurozone countries had serious implications for non-euro countries in the EU and their interests must be safeguarded.
Eventually, after what Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who chaired the summit, called a “stormy” discussion, the French president secured an agreement that while all 27 leaders will first debate the three-pronged package of measures to recapitalize banks, build up the bailout fund and write down Greek debt, the eurosummit would have the final say at back-to-back summits tomorrow.
The vote in parliament yesterday was expected to be a testy encounter with Cameron’s own party on Britain’s membership of the EU. The vote calls for a nationwide referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU, renegotiate its treaty with Brussels, or remain a member on current terms. The government will not suffer a defeat, since Labour and the Liberal Democrats will vote down the motion, but a voluble and sizable group believe the prime minister should honor pledges once made to allow a national poll on Britain’s relationship with Europe. They would like the repatriation of social and employment rights.
On Sunday in Brussels, Cameron used a press conference to appeal directly to potential rebels, talking up the chance of repatriating powers with the “possibility” of treaty change coming on to the agenda as early as December, as euro countries push toward fiscal integration.
Academics at Nottingham University in central England predict the number rebelling against the government is likely to top the 41 Conservative MPs who voted against former British prime minister John Major in May 1993 on the third reading of the Maastricht bill.
They also said 41 was the number who rebelled in October last year over an attempt to make using insulting language a criminal act, which was then the biggest rebellion of Cameron’s leadership.
The two sides in the referendum battle fortified their positions, with government ministers defending the decision to impose a three-line whip on the vote brought to the Commons by a petition.
British Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond said the whip had been put in place because the motion was contrary to government policy, and holding a referendum on the EU would be “just a distraction.”
Former Conservative leader Michael Howard also weighed in, saying an EU referendum would be a mistake in current conditions.
However, Cameron faces the likely resignations of some parliamentary aides to ministers and rebellion by the chairman of the 1922 committee, Graham Brady.
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big