David Cameron faces EU charge of hypocrisy over demand for cuts

PM seen as main stumbling block to a deal as 27 leaders meet at Brussels summit

David Cameron will today demand cuts in the cost of running the European Union as he begins what could be a marathon summit on the EU's budget of almost €1 trillion for 2014-20.

But the Prime Minister has angered Brussels officials and politicians, who have accused him of hypocrisy and creating a sideshow because administration costs amount to only 6 per cent of the EU's total spending. Mr Cameron is expected to target the pay and perks of Eurocrats, after figures showed 4,000 European Commission officials earn more than €100,000 a year.

EU officials have hit back, claiming British civil servants in Brussels enjoy much more generous terms and conditions and often turn down Commission jobs. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, has challenged the UK Government to publish such a comparison – without success.

In a protest letter to Mr Cameron, Malcolm Colling, President of the Association of Independent Officials in the Commission, urged him to "rise above petty polemics" and halt the attacks on EU staff. He said the 23,800 Commission officials were outnumbered by the 33,000 staff employed by Leeds City Council.

Mr Cameron will hold talks in Brussels this morning with Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, who is trying to broker a deal between the leaders of the 27 EU nations. Hopes of a breakthrough receded last night. In an attempt to satisfy the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, who are urging budgetary restraint, Mr Van Rompuy has cut the original €1,047bn seven-year budget proposed by the Commission to €973bn. But this has provoked a backlash from France, Spain, Italy and other countries who are fighting to keep their EU farm subsidies and funds for poor regions.

The complex negotiations could run on into the weekend. After meeting the 27 leaders individually, Mr Van Rompuy is likely to revise his plans when they sit down for a working dinner tonight. He may shave another €20bn off the draft budget, including cuts in officials' salaries and perks.

Mr Cameron, who has demanded a freeze in EU spending, is seen as the main stumbling block to a deal. Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party chairman, appeared to raise Britain's demands yesterday, saying that "we intend to at least freeze, if not cut" the UK's contribution to the EU. That looks impossible, since Britain's payments seem certain to rise in the next few years under a previously-agreed formula.

Yesterday, Mr Cameron told the Commons he would fight to defend the rebate on Britain's EU contributions won by Margaret Thatcher in 1984, which will come u nder pressure at the summit. He said the rebate was "an incredibly important part of Britain's position in Europe and making sure we get a fair deal" and criticised Tony Blair for giving away "almost half of it" in the last EU budget negotiation in 2005.

Q&A: The EU budget talks

Q. What will the 27 EU leaders discuss at the Brussels summit starting today?

A. A spending limit of almost €1 trillion for the seven-year period from 2014-20. Herman Van Rompuy, who will chair the meeting as president of the European Council, has trimmed the European Commission's draft budget of €1,047bn to €973bn – less than the EU will spend in the 2007-13 period.

Q. Is David Cameron the stumbling block to a deal?

A. The Prime Minister, under pressure from Conservative Eurosceptic MPs, is the main threat to an agreement. Although the EU budget ceiling may fall, Britain's net contribution to it (€7.3bn last year) is likely to rise over the next few years under a previously agreed formula. However, the UK's precise contribution will not be fixed at the summit.

Q. Do other EU countries have their own issues?

A. Yes. Mr Cameron is not the only leader threatening to veto a deal, which must be agreed unanimously. France, Spain, Austria and Latvia are among nations which want higher farm subsidies than Mr Van Rompuy is proposing. Denmark is demanding a UK-style rebate on its EU contributions. Poland, Romania and Italy want to safeguard funds earmarked for poor regions.

Q. Will the rebate on the UK's contributions to the EU survive?

A. Yes. Mr Van Rompuy wants to cut it from about €3.6bn to €2.6bn a year. Mr Cameron can veto any change, but would alienate other EU members if he did not make concessions in other areas.

Q. What happens if there is no agreement?

A. Talks would resume early next year. If there is still no deal then, budgets would be rolled over on an annual basis. Decisions would then be taken by qualified majority voting, depriving Britain of its veto.

Q. Deal or no deal?

A. Too early to tell. The summit haggling could drag on into the weekend. Brussels diplomats say agreement is possible: EU budget figures are so opaque they can be fudged to allow everyone to claim victory. Mr Cameron may be tempted to repeat the veto he wielded last December on plans for fiscal union. However, if he wins more concessions, he may sign up now rather than risk bigger EU budgets being approved on an annual basis.

Andrew Grice

Suggested Topics
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
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

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor