EU leaders meeting in Brussels agreed the first significant cuts in the union’s budget, after Germany’s Angela Merkel backed Mr Cameron’s drive to squeeze European spending
“I think the British people can be proud,” the Prime Minister said, adding that his plan to hold a referendum on Britain’s EU membership has strengthened Britain’s negotiating position.
The deal sets members’ total payments to the EU for 2014-20 at Euro 908.4 billion or £770 billion. For the last seven-year spending round, payments were set at £800 billion, and the new agreement marks the first time the EU’s multi-year budget has fallen.
Every time leaders have agreed a budget in the past, it has risen, Mr Cameron said, declaring. “Not this time.”
The deal means that Britain will pay around £500 million a year less to the EU than it would have done under a budget proposed last year.
The summit was the first since Mr Cameron committed to renegotiate Britain’s EU membership and put the result to an in/out referendum by 2017.
That promise had drawn warnings that Britain will lose influence in Europe, and some EU leaders used it to challenge Mr Cameron over the budget. “Why should we listen to a country that might not be in the EU in 2017?” asked a French source.
However, Mr Cameron said the budget deal was proof that had worked with the Dutch, the Danes, the Swedes and “very closely” with Mrs Merkel: “That is not isolation, that is working together with allies.”
Far from isolating Britain, the referendum plan had bolstered his negotiating position, the Prime Minister said.
He said: “I don’t find it makes it more difficult to build partnerships. If anything, quite the reverse.”
France had backed a proposal for EU spending to be set at almost £800 billion, seeking to preserve farm subsidies paid through the Common Agricultural policy. Mr Hollande has also called for cuts in Britain’s annual £3.6 billion rebate. (Telegraph)