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Cameron To Insist On Austerity In EU Budget

(c) Sky News 2012

David Cameron travels to Brussels later insisting that austerity being enforced around Europe (Chicago Options: ^REURUSD - news) is reflected in the EU's budget.

He will join leaders from all 27 countries at a special summit to set the European Union's spending limits from 2014 to 2020.

It is a complex and deeply divisive process, with the UK balking at the European Commission's opening gambit - to increase the overall spending ceiling to a maximum €1,091,000,000,000.

This was flatly rejected by Britain and nearly all the net contributors to the European Union.

The European Council, which represents the interest of the member states, chimed in with its own plan, which represents a real-terms 2% cut from the spending ceiling approved for the current seven-year period.

But the proposal, penned by the Council President Herman van Rompuy, would reduce Britain's rebate and only contains a 1% reduction under so-called "Heading 4", which details the EU's spending on administration costs.

Mr Cameron, and other leaders, believe Brussels should accept some symbolic reductions in red tape and make deeper cuts to the legions of Eurocrats who work in the EU institutions.

The British Prime Minister believes Mr van Rompuy's proposals are moving in the right direction, but he needs to go further.

He has also insisted that the UK's £3bn a year rebate, which was negotiated to compensate Britain for money disbursed to other nations, is not up for discussion.

He told MPs (BSE: MPSLTD.BO - news) yesterday he would be "fighting incredibly hard" to get the best deal for the UK, but he could use the veto to protect British interests.

The budget has to be agreed by all 27 members and by a majority in the European Parliament.

Other countries also have reservations with the proposals on the table: France and Ireland (Xetra: A0Q8L3 - news) want to protect agricultural payments to their farmers, Italy is unhappy that other countries' rebates due to expire in 2013 might be renewed while Denmark wants to negotiate its own rebate.

Earlier this month Mr Cameron was blindsided by a Tory rebellion calling for a budget cut, not just a freeze. He may yet face their wrath.

The budget being discussed is about setting an absolute limit on EU spending, but the money spent is always considerably less.

So while the British Prime Minister might be able to claim a victory in securing a freeze in total EU spending limits, UK taxpayers may still have to fork out more cash to Brussels.

If no agreement is reached, more summits will be held in the new year.

If there are still problems, the annual budget will roll over with an extra 2% added to take account of inflation.

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