'Major victory' for Cameron as EU leaders discuss budget cut

Feb 8, 2013

Europe close to agreeing first budget cut in its history. But the EU is still spending more on cows than people

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David Cameron

THE EU was this morning edging towards an historic budget deal that could see the first ever spending cut in the organisation’s 56-year history.

Proposals backed by Britain and tabled by Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, after all-night talks in Brussels would see the budget for 2014 – 2020 cut by 34 billion.

The Daily Telegraph says that if the proposed budget is adopted it will represent a "major victory" for David Cameron, who had demanded a real-terms budget freeze, and save British taxpayers up to £500 million a year.

The deal was tabled at 6.30 am today after German Chancellor Angela Merkel had supported Britain during what the Telegraph called "20 hours of gruelling talks".

The Guardian explains that the proposal will reduce the EU's "payment ceiling", likened to a credit card limit, from €942.8bn to €908.4bn over the next seven years.

But there is still a long way to go, warns the BBC. "A broad framework was reported to have been agreed, but hard bargaining still lies ahead at the Brussels summit," it said. "Any one of the 27 member states can veto a budget deal - a fact which makes the negotiations all the more difficult."

France's position is unclear. Francois Hollande failed to attend a meeting with Cameron, Merkel and Van Rompuy on Thursday evening. The Times notes that instead he met with "the Polish, Spanish and Italian leaders, who were all opposing further reductions".

Any deal agreed at the summit in Brussels would also need to be signed off by the European Parliament. According to the Guardian, Martin Schulz, the president of the parliament, has "made clear that he was uneasy with Van Rompuy's plans".

While spending cuts will be well-received in some quarters – especially the £1.7bn cut in the EU’s administrative costs - the structure of the budget remains a problem.

"Even if a final deal is struck on the seven-year framework," says Reuters, "around 40 per cent of the spending will still be dedicated to farming and regional development, something that frustrates many northern European states, which want a more dynamic budget."

As the BBC’s Matthew Price commented: "Where it's not a victory is for those who want a more modern budget that has more funding to tackle the problems of growth and unemployment across Europe.

"Agriculture spending still makes up a huge proportion of the budget. As one campaign group said - Europe will spend more on cows than on the young unemployed."

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