DCSIMG

Talks fail as David Cameron tells EU: Get real

Picture: Ap

Picture: Ap

  • by CHRIS MARSHALL
 

DAVID Cameron accused his European counterparts on Friday night of failing to live in the “real world” as talks over the long-term funding of the EU broke down in acrimony.

Europe’s leaders had gathered in Brussels in an attempt to thrash out the one trillion euro spending deal which will bankroll the 27-country bloc for much of the next decade.

But there remains a yawning gulf between those, including the UK, who want to see cuts in the budget to match austerity measures at home, and others who want spending on the EU to

increase.

The Prime Minister said late on Friday that the offer on the table was “just not good enough”, accusing eurocrats of failing to come up with even a “single euro” in savings.

Mr Cameron has threatened to veto any deal which calls for a rise in spending. Fellow net contributor Germany was also opposed to an increase in the budget, a position backed by the Netherlands and Sweden.

However, Poland and its former communist neighbours, which rely heavily on EU cash, have backed calls for extra funds, with the EU Commission, which drafts EU laws, asking for an increase of nearly 5 per cent .

Those hit hardest by the financial crisis, including Greece, Portugal and Spain, are also seeking an increase in the budget, but it is France, a major recipient of EU farming subsidies, which is the most powerful opponent of the UK’s position.

Mr Cameron said he had come under concerted pressure to give up part of the UK’s EU rebate, but insisted he had

“successfully defended” it.

The summit was called to a halt after two days of talks failed to bridge deep divisions over spending priorities for the next seven years.

Mr Cameron said he was confident a deal could be done later but insisted it would not be “at any cost”. At a press conference, he said the deal offered was unacceptable to a number of other countries, not just Britain.

“All of these countries are net contributors to the EU. In other words, like Britain, they write the cheques,” he said.

“Together, we had a very clear message – we are not going to be tough on budgets at home just to come here and sign up to big increases in European spending.”

While there was criticism of the British position from France, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said it was important that Britain “remain engaged” with Europe “because Britain is important to the EU as a whole”.

Mr Cameron said Britain had cut its civil service to help rein in public spending while Brussels continued “to exist as if it is in a parallel universe” with high pay and perks for EU staff.

“The EU institutions have simply got to adjust to the real world,” he said. “The commission didn’t offer a single euro in savings, not one euro, and I just don’t think that is good enough. Frankly, the idea that the EU institutions are unwilling to even consider these sorts of changes is insulting to European taxpayers.

“In terms of the rebate, I made absolutely clear from the outset that the British rebate that Margaret Thatcher secured was not up for negotiation.”

Invited to make an unambiguous statement that he would not take Britain out of the EU, Mr Cameron said: “What I have said is very clear – I support our membership of the EU, but I don’t support the status quo.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel tried to avoid taking sides, saying the strong differences of opinion were no cause for alarm. “We should be able to bridge those differences,” she said. “We have a reached a good basis to continue our work.”

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said: “David Cameron has failed to persuade other European leaders to deliver the reform of and real-terms cut in the Budget which MPs voted for. He is increasingly weak and

isolated.”

 

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