Prime Minister faces battle over rise in European budget

David Cameron won the support of ten other countries last night in his battle to veto an above-inflation boost to Europe's budget.

MEPs and Brussels officials stepped up demands at an EU summit in Brussels for an increase in spending of almost six per cent. But a group of national leaders including the Prime Minister – albeit still representing a minority of EU member states - are resisting the move.

Mr Cameron has accepted that the budget will still have to go up by a minimum of 2.9 per cent, which would mean a rise in Britain's contribution of more than £400m next year.

Even agreeing to that could provoke mutiny among Tory Eurosceptics. The former party chairman, Lord Tebbit, yesterday called for him to block any rise, warning he risked a "Vichy-style" surrender if he handed over any more money to Brussels.

After arriving in Brussels, Mr Cameron secured the support of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy for limiting the increase to close to 2.9 per cent.

His stance was also backed by the Netherlands, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Austria, Finland, Slovenia and Estonia.

The 11 have enough votes to form a "blocking minority" if the rest of the member states try to settle on a higher figure than 2.9 per cent.

The wrangle over the EU's 2011 budget looks likely to drag on for at least another fortnight with MEPs and European officials on one side and government ministers on the other.

The battle-lines were drawn as Jerzy Buzek, the President of the European Parliament, said its demand for a 5.9 per cent was not "unreasonable" and would benefit research, the environment and education.

The European Commission also sought to bolster its case by producing figures showing that increases in the EU budget in recent years had fallen short of the rises in spending by European governments.

But Mr Cameron retorted: "I think that is completely unacceptable at a time when European countries, including the United Kingdom, are taking difficult decisions on their budgets and having to cut some departments. It is completely wrong that European institutions should be spending money on themselves."

Although the Prime Minister last week called for a complete freeze in the budget, his aides said it was now a question of capping the budget rise to 2.9 per cent, as agreed earlier this year by member states. "We will need to negotiate hard for what we want," the aide said.

Mr Cameron is also attempting to win support for a bigger budget battle – over the EU's spending plans between 2014 and 2020. Negotiations on their shape will last up to 18 months, but the Prime Minister will press for them to be pegged or even cut.

Meanwhile, Germany and France were making ground on their demand to amend the Lisbon Treaty to create a permanent rescue fund to deal with any fresh Greek-style debt crisis.

Mr Cameron is not expected to stand in the way of the move, arguing that the move would only affect countries in the single currency.

Earlier this week, there was a chorus of opposition to the plan which would involve re-opening a treaty that took eight years of fractious negotiations to cobble together and which only came into force last December.

But Ms Merkel and Mr Sarkozy have been lobbying furiously since last week, when they drafted their proposals during their meeting in the Normandy resort of Deauville. The duo have been pounding the phones all week to win over opponents and held rounds of last-minute meetings as the summit got underway at the European Council headquarters.

They also reportedly offered to support Mr Cameron's call to cap the increase in the EU budget in 2011, a trade-off that the Prime Minister had demanded as part-exchange for his backing their plan.

Chancellor Merkel first floated the idea of creating a permanent rescue mechanism during in May, when the 27 government leaders came together to avert a meltdown of the Euro, triggered the Greek debt crisis. They put up 750 billion euros in a rescue mechanism that is designed to run out in 2013.

Earlier this week, Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn had led the charge against the plan on the grounds it would "plunge the EU back into months and years of navel gazing".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration Engineer

£24000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: These refrigeration specialists...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Logistics and Supply Chain

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an operational role and...

Recruitment Genius: CNC Sheet Metal Worker / Fabricator

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working within the workshop of ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st / 2nd Line IT Support Engineer

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist high tech compa...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral