Prime Minister David Cameron complained last night that he was being ignored at an EU summit on jobs and growth.
Mr Cameron raised formal objections in Brussels after claiming that his ideas for swift action on cutting red tape, boosting businesses and opening up the single market were not reflected in draft summit conclusions due to be approved today.
A dozen countries are signed up to the “Plan for Growth in Europe”, set out in a joint letter initiated by Mr Cameron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. It was circulated to all member states 10 days ago but a rival Franco-German letter has also set out steps towards recovery.
Mr Cameron pointed out forcefully at the summit table that some suggestions in the Franco-German letter explicitly appeared in the draft conclusions – but none of the plans set out in his 12-state document.
A UK Government source described Mr Cameron as “frustrated”, adding: “We are slightly surprised that you can have 12 countries saying you should do something and it is ignored. This letter was written by 12 countries 10 days ago and yet the issues we raised are not reflected in the draft conclusions.”
There have been rumblings at recent summits that Germany and France are calling the shots in Brussels, and that Herman Van Rompuy, the former Belgian prime minister who is president of the European Council, effectively in charge of running summits, favours their views when drawing up summit proposals.
Ironically, moments after the exchanges, EU leaders unanimously re-elected Mr Van Rompuy to serve another term. They had little choice – there was no other candidate.
The draft summit conclusions call for action to put the EU back on the “path to growth”.
They specifically call for issues in terms set out in the Franco-German letter – “fiscal consolidation as an essential condition of higher growth and employment; a broader tax base; and a target of raising the employment rate to 75 per cent on average across Europe by 2020”.
But ideas in the 12-nation letter backed by Mr Cameron figure nowhere. The letter says growth issues have already been discussed before at summit, adding: “Now is the time to show leadership and take bold decisions which will deliver the results that our people are demanding.”
The summit will conclude today, with the high point the formal signing of a new “fiscal compact” committing 25 of the 27 member states to tougher Brussels scrutiny of their economic plans.
The “fiscal compact” was forged after Mr Cameron dramatically vetoed a formal EU Treaty change last December, and Britain has been joined by only the Czech Republic in refusing to be part of the accord on new economic constraints.
British officials said Mr Cameron would not be in the same summit room when the deal is signed.
The summit takes place as it was announced that unemployment in the eurozone unexpectedly hit 10.7 per cent in January – the highest rate since the euro was established in 1999, while inflation pushed beyond the European Central Bank’s target, official figures show.