David Cameron under pressure from MPs as EU demands end to rebate

Summit begins with feud as Italy and Spain call for immediate help with borrowing rates

Brussels

David Cameron was under mounting pressure on Europe last night as 100 Conservative MPs demanded a referendum and he tried to head off moves to abolish the £3bn-a-year rebate on Britain's EU contributions.

In a strongly worded letter to the Prime Minister, Tory MPs urged him to pass a law before the 2015 general election to guarantee a referendum "on the nature of our relationship with the EU" during the next five-year Parliament.

John Baron, MP for Basildon and Billericay, said in the letter that the case for a referendum "is growing by the day". He argued that the "meddling" EU is "very different" to the EEC Britain joined in 1973, pointing out that no one under 55 has had a chance to vote on our membership. A referendum pledge made "sooner rather than later", he said, would address "the very real lack of public trust" in politicians.

The growing Tory campaign gave Mr Cameron a headache as he attended yet another EU summit overshadowed by the eurozone crisis.

Deep divisions emerged as Italy and Spain, backed by France, demanded urgent measures to lower their crippling borrowing rates. An acrimonious summit dragged on late into the night as Italian and Spanish leaders threatened to delay approval of a €120bn "compact for jobs and growth" unless they secured immediate help on their borrowing costs.

The moves by Spain, Italy and France increased the pressure on Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, to do more to bolster the single currency. Although there were some signs that she might soften her hardline stance against pooling government debt, her room for manoeuvre was limited because she needs to win approval today from the German parliament for the EU's new bailout fund. When the fractious summit ends today, EU leaders are expected to ask four senior EU officials to draw up by December an historic "road map" and timetable for genuine economic and monetary union. Yesterday's talks began a debate on the EU's €1 trillion spending plans for 2014-20.

The European Commission wants to scrap the rebate on Britain's payments won by Margaret Thatcher, which refunds the UK 66 per cent of the difference between its payments to and receipts from the EU. The Commission argues Britain no longer needs the rebate – a view echoed at the meeting by Mario Monti, the Italian Prime Minister, who described it as unacceptable.

Mr Cameron put down a marker by declaring that the rebate would not be surrendered or cut in budget talks due to conclude in December. "It is not up for negotiation," said one UK official. The Prime Minister will come under huge pressure to make concessions. He had an understanding with Nicolas Sarkozy that Britain would not demand radical reform of the Common Agricultural Policy if France did not attack the UK rebate. But the deal is unlikely to be maintained by François Hollande, France 's new President.

The Prime Minister was embroiled in a separate row over where a long-planned European patent court should be based. Germany and France ganged up to squeeze London out and split the court between Munich and Paris. Mr Cameron was accused of holding up the summit when he blocked the move. Plans for a single European patent is a saga that has been running for almost 40 years.

Over a working dinner last night, Mr Cameron rejected demands for Britain to join the banking union, saying it should apply only to the 17 eurozone countries.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there