AMMAN Nov 7 British Prime Minister David
Cameron on Wednesday branded the EU's proposed budget increase
"ludicrous" in one of his strongest attacks yet, and said hopes
were low for an EU spending deal at a summit this month.
The tough rhetoric indicates Cameron is likely to use his
veto, and comes ahead of talks with German Chancellor Angela
Merkel later on Wednesday amid signs that EU leaders are growing
increasinlgy annoyed by what they see as Britain's isolationism.
The prime minister has repeatedly threatened to veto the
upcoming budget talks unless spending is frozen in real terms,
and in December last year he vetoed a package of fiscal measures
designed to help deal with the euro zone debt crisis.
Some European officials believe Britain is on a path to an
acrimonious exit from the 27-member bloc.
The prime minister also said he would insist Merkel stick by
a letter she and other European leaders signed in 2010 calling
for a real terms freeze in the EU budget, which would ensure
spending rises no higher than the rate of inflation.
"They're proposing a completely ludicrous 100 billion euro
($127.83 billion) increase in the European budget," Cameron told
"How can they argue that countries should be cutting
spending and taking tough decisions if they're not prepared to
take tough decisions themselves?" he said, adding, "I will be
arguing for a very tough outcome. I never had very high hopes
for a November agreement because you've got 27 different people
round the table with 27 different opinions."
Britain, a net contributor to the EU budget, is not alone in
calling for budgetary restraint, but it has been the loudest.
Cameron is under intense pressure from his own party and the
public to take a tough stance on EU spending at a time of harsh
austerity measures at home, giving him very little room to
manouvre at the budget talks.
He is likely to be fiercely opposed by EU members such as
Poland, net recipients from the EU budget, making a November
deal unlikely given the budget has to be agreed unanimously.
The prime minister said he has always had "good, frank, open
conversations" with Merkel, but that he would be making his
arguments on EU spending to her "with vigour".
TWO EU BUDGETS?
Talks on the seven-year EU budget are due to be held in
Brussels on Nov. 22-23, and Cameron would have to submit any
agreement to parliament for approval.
The growing influence of the eurosceptic wing of his party
threatens to reopen the row over Europe that helped undo former
Conservative prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major.
Cameron suffered a major parliamentary rebellion last week
when members of his ruling Conservative Party joined opposition
Labour to win a non-binding vote calling for a real terms cut in
EU spending, not just a freeze.
One of Britain's misgivings over the EU budget is the belief
that too much money is spent to prop up the bloc's 17-member
euro zone currency union, of which Britain is not a member.
Cameron said he would argue that euro zone countries, hit by
costly sovereign debt crises, should have a separate budget.
"I understand the difficulties of the euro, but the European
Union budget is for all 27 members of the EU, and we shouldn't
be using the EU budget to make up for difficulties and problems
in the euro zone," he reiterated.