UK & World News
David Cameron Faces Crunch EU Budget Vote
David Cameron has insisted he would prefer a cut in the EU Budget as he struggled to contain a fresh Tory mutiny over Europe.
The Prime Minister faces a tight vote on the issue later today as rebel Tories prepare to join forces with Labour to demand a tougher stance.
Mr Cameron is arguing for a real-terms freeze in the funding package for the next seven years but is being urged to go further by many of his own backbenchers.
The Commons is set to debate the budget this afternoon before voting on an amendment put forward by Tory Mark Reckless demanding a real-terms cut in spending.
Labour leader Ed Miliband leapt on the issue at PMQs and compared Mr Cameron to his Tory forerunner Sir John Major, who endured repeated rebellions over Europe.
"Last year he flounced out of the December negotiations with a veto and the agreement went ahead anyway. He has thrown in the towel even before these negotiations have begun," he said.
"He can't convince European leaders, he can't even convince his own backbenchers. He is weak abroad, he is weak at home: It's John Major all over again."
But Mr Cameron said: "This Government is taking the toughest line in these budget negotiations of any government since we joined the European Union.
"At best we would like it cut, at worst frozen, and I'm quite prepared to use the veto if we don't get a deal which is good for Britain.
"But let's be clear - it is in our interest to try to get a deal because a seven-year freeze would keep our bills down compared to annual budgets."
He accused Labour of "rank opportunism", pointing out that the party gave away part of Britain's rebate and agreed a massive increase to the EU budget while in government.
The Prime Minister made clear he was ready to use his veto a second time and challenged Mr Miliband if he would do the same - but he was cut off by Commons Speaker John Bercow.
With Labour also ordered to support the amendment in tonight's vote and smaller parties also expected to do so, Mr Cameron could face a humiliating defeat.
He and Chancellor George Osborne are reported to have been holding personal meetings with wavering Conservatives as Government whips work frantically to rally support.
Although the result is not binding on the Government, it would be awkward for Mr Cameron to defy the will of the House at next month's EU summit.
Tory rebels expect 40 to 60 of their colleagues to back the amendment, including Mark Pritchard, Zac Goldsmith, Bill Cash, John Redwood, Bernard Jenkin and Peter Bone. Many more could abstain.
The European Commission has proposed an £826bn budget ceiling for the 2014-20 period - a 5% hike compared with 2007-13.
Despite other members such as Germany joining calls for restraint, Downing Street has suggested a rise in line with inflation is the best outcome that can be achieved.
If no deal is reached at the summit, the budget is automatically "rolled over" to next year with a 2% increase.