Cameron fights EU budget

By staff

David Cameron is pressuring European leaders to avoid a six per cent increase in the European Union’s budget, in his first major diplomatic test on the continent.

The prime minister will hope to restrict the 2011 budget to 2.9%, as already agreed by European leaders.

Others, led by France and Germany, are calling for a larger hike after receiving backing from the European parliament. A six per cent increase could cost Britain £900 million.

On the eve of today’s summit in Brussels Mr Cameron embarked on a round of telephone diplomacy, calling European leaders to argue the case for fiscal discipline in the EU budget.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and Belgian prime minister Yves Leterme were all spoken to by Mr Cameron, who also talked to EU president Herman Van Rompuy.

“Many countries across Europe had engaged in challenging national programmes to cut spending and rein in budget deficits,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

“The eurozone itself had been working on new arrangements for ensuring individual members of the eurozone managed their public finances responsibly.

“Now the EU as a whole needed to show that it would make its contribution too. This meant agreeing the lowest possible EU budget for 2011, and demonstrating real restraint as we approached negotiations on the next financial perspective.”