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
Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on