UK & World News
PM Still In Discussions At EU Budget Summit
David Cameron is still locked in talks on the EU bloc's future budget in Brussels as Britain leads a campaign for massive spending cuts.
The Prime Minister said he is prepared to use his veto to block a deal covering the financing of the European Union if the EU does not cut more off its budget.
The British premier made his position clear to reporters ahead of a summit in Brussels to set the budget for the next seven years - the first since his demands caused the collapse of the bloc's previous meeting in November.
The talks to decide the European Union's budget for the remainder of the decade began more than six hours late as leaders met in groups to try to reach a compromise, battling it out until the small hours of Friday morning.
Before Friday dawned, EU president Herman Van Rompuy said an agreement was within touching distance. "But we are not there yet," he underlined.
Britain and France, whose leaders failed to gather face-to-face at a planned pre-summit huddle, were the main protagonists in a battle over spending priorities for 2014-2020 that turned on whether proposals for a budget initially above one trillion euros would fall to around 900 billion.
It is Mr Cameron's first summit since pledging a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.
He told reporters: "When we were last here in November, the numbers that were put forward were much too high. They need to come down. And if they don't come down, there won't be a deal."
Last year, he refused to accept the trillion-euro budget on the table, even though EU President Herman Van Rompuy had cut it back from 1.3trillion euros (£1.12trillion) to 973billion euros (£840billion) under pressure from London.
Britain is now pushing to cut "tens of billions (of euros) off where we were in November", a government source said, adding that progress was being made.
Mr Cameron's demands have again put him on a collision course with his European partners, many of whom are already angry over his promise last month to hold a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU by 2017.
Francois Hollande has warned against cutting EU spending on investment projects at a time when 26 million people are unemployed across the EU.
He told reporters on his arrival that "if Europe, seeking to reach a compromise at any cost, should abandon its common policies, forget farming and ignore growth, I will not agree".
Mr Cameron is seeking the support of other net contributors to the European Union in his quest for a tighter budget, including Germany.
He was able to meet the leaders of northern European nations Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands in order to win their help.
The prime minister's promise of a referendum on EU membership last month won him praise from some newspapers and elements of the Conservative Party who had long been calling for powers to be returned from Brussels to London.
But many EU leaders are growing impatient with what they view as Britain's continued demands for special treatment, and its recent threat of exit from the 27-nation bloc if it does not get its way.
Memories are also still fresh of a summit in December 2011 when Mr Cameron found himself isolated after excluding Britain from a fiscal pact aimed at tackling the crisis in the eurozone.
Mr Cameron will need his European allies to help him push through the reforms he outlined in his speech on January 23, when he made the case for Britain's place in Europe but warned that its institutions needed to change.
The prime minister has targeted the Brussels bureaucracy for the bulk of the budget cuts, warning that the EU cannot be exempt from the austerity being introduced across Europe following the global economic crisis.
"The European Union should not be immune from the sorts of pressures that we've had, to reduce spending, find efficiencies and make sure that we spend money wisely, that we're all having to do right across Europe," Mr Cameron said.