Cameron savours EU budget win as battles loom

BRUSSELS Fri Feb 8, 2013 7:47pm GMT

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a news conference at the end of an European Union leaders summit meeting to discuss the European Union's long-term budget in Brussels February 8, 2013. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a news conference at the end of an European Union leaders summit meeting to discuss the European Union's long-term budget in Brussels February 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Prime Minister David Cameron won praise from his party's anti-EU camp with a successful fight to cut the European Union budget, but tougher battles lie ahead when he seeks to win back powers from Brussels before a vote on Britain's EU membership.

Supporters hailed the outcome as an "historic victory" for Cameron, comparing it to former Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher's winning of concessions from Europe at fiercely contested summits in the 1980s.

Cameron, trailing in the polls and threatened by anti-EU rivals before a 2015 election, needed a win in Brussels to restore his authority on Europe and within his fractious party.

The opposition Labour Party said his January pledge to claw back powers from the EU and give British voters a referendum on leaving the bloc had left him "weak and isolated" in the EU.

After leaders secured a deal for a long-term EU budget worth close to 1 trillion euros ($1.34 trillion), Cameron stressed his success in forging alliances with the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and, to a lesser extent, Germany.

"That is not isolation. That is Britain actually with allies, getting things done in Europe and coming with good results," he told a news conference.

Crucially for a domestic audience, Cameron protected Britain's rebate, a prized refund from the EU to London secured by Thatcher worth 3 billion pounds ($4.75 billion) a year.

'THREE CHEERS'

One leading Eurosceptic Conservative lawmaker, Douglas Carswell, said Cameron deserved "three hearty cheers".

Taking the gloss off the deal was the news that Britain's net contribution to EU funds will still rise to help pay for new members of the bloc.

While Cameron won this round of the EU debate, it came at the expense of again upsetting France and some other European neighbours. French President Francois Hollande vehemently opposed Cameron, warning that cuts would damage the recovery.

British officials said Hollande failed to turn up for a scheduled meeting with Cameron at the talks -- an assertion promptly dismissed by the French. The denial did not stop British newspapers talking about "Le Snub".

More trouble for the budget lies ahead at the European Parliament, which must approve the plan. Its Deputy President Othmar Karas said it would stifle growth and must be blocked.

Despite offering some support to Britain on the budget, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be a far more formidable obstacle on the repatriation of powers to London in areas like employment law, crime and social welfare. One of her senior ministers has said Cameron will not be allowed to "cherry pick".

"Merkel thrives on her role as a broker," said Raoul Ruparel, of the eurosceptic think tank Open Europe. "The lesson for the UK is that win enough support for your position among like-minded member states and Germany will back you." ($1 = 0.7474 euros) ($1 = 0.6315 British pounds)

(Additional reporting by Ilona Wissenbach and Michael Shields; Editing by Roger Atwood)

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Comments (4)
Raymond.Vermont wrote:
What is akin to the European Union project at present?

A street full of households all trying to run two cars per family, (with those cars being a 5 series and 3 series)and all just to keep up with the Jones’s, when in reality each household can (and at best) just about scrape enough spare finance to run just one 1 series per family unit!

The ‘Big’ car has just got to go…

Feb 08, 2013 8:05pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
Raymond.Vermont wrote:
So when will Brussels actually be self sustaining,(?) or will it be forever running a 100% budget ‘black-holed’ deficit as a form of unecessary European wide, centralized administration.

i.e govt tier on govt tier on govt tier!

Feb 08, 2013 8:17pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
SCSCSC wrote:
No audited accounts for 18 years – soon to be 19 years.

There is also an amount of approximately EUR200Bn that is contracted to be spent for which no funding has been factored in. This EUR200Bn is being carried over into the budget for 2020 and beyond.

Why is it that Socialists the world over don’t get the value of money and DEBT?

Time for a vote of confidence in the EU. Cameron/EU have you got the balls to call a vote?

Feb 09, 2013 11:38am GMT  --  Report as abuse
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