EU budget: David Cameron says no cut to UK rebate

David Cameron, UK PM: "These are very important negotiations"

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David Cameron has told EU leaders there can be "no question" of any further cuts to the British budget rebate.

And he told EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy there should be cuts in EU spending as a "symbolic gesture".

Mr Cameron, who is holding talks in Brussels ahead of a meeting of all 27 member states, has vowed to resist any increase in the EU's long-term budget.

Mr Cameron is seeking to build alliances with other leaders ahead of two days of budget negotiations.

Germany is among the UK's main allies, but other nations support the European Commission's call for higher spending.

What is the UK's net contribution to the EU?

  • The UK is one of 12 EU members that make a net contribution to the EU budget - meaning it pays in more than it gets back in EU funding.
  • But there are different figures for what the UK's net contribution is depending on how it is calculated.
  • The EU financial year runs from January to December. The Treasury says that in 2011 the UK net contribution to the EU budget was £8.1bn. But for the UK financial year, running from April 2010 to March 2011, the Treasury says the contribution was £8.91bn.
  • The European Commission calculates the UK's contribution in a different way. In 2011 it says the UK's net contribution was 7.25bn euros (£5.85bn; $9.4bn).

France objects to proposed cuts in agriculture, while countries in Central and Eastern Europe oppose cuts to funding to improve infrastructure in poorer areas.

Mr Cameron met EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, to set out Britain's position.

He told them there was "no question" of any further cuts to the UK's multi-billion pound rebate first secured by the Thatcher government in the 1980s.

The rebate, which was meant to reflect the fact that the UK had a smaller agricultural sector than other nations at a time when most EU money went to farmers, is viewed as unfair by some member states.

Britain could be put under pressure to compromise elsewhere if it wants to keep the rebate, European Commission sources say.

Mr Cameron also called for be further cuts to EU spending, including administrative costs, on top of a 70bn euro cut proposed by Mr Rompuy, as a "symbolic gesture".

The prime minister has vowed to push for a freeze in the EU's budget, something he says has never been achieved before, and he has threatened to use Britain's veto to block any deal that is "bad for Britain".

'Good deal'

But he is under pressure from many of his own MPs and the opposition Labour Party to go even further and hold out for a real-terms cut.

He faces the prospect of defeat in the House of Commons when MPs vote, in about a year's time, on ratifying any deal reached in Brussels.

David Cameron wants Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, to be in no doubt that unless the EU budget is frozen in real terms and Britain's rebate is maintained there will be no deal at this summit

But if member states fail to reach a deal by March or April, the 2013 budget will continue into 2014 on a month-by-month basis, meaning the UK could end up with an EU budget higher than that which Mr Cameron is currently seeking.

Speaking to reporters as he arrived in Brussels, Mr Cameron said: "These are very important negotiations.

"Clearly at a time when we are making difficult decisions at home over public spending it would be quite wrong, it is quite wrong, for there to be proposals for this increased extra spending in the EU.

"So we are going to be negotiating very hard for a good deal for Britain's taxpayers and Europe's taxpayers and to keep the British rebate."

The BBC's chief political correspondent Norman Smith said Mr Cameron's strong rhetoric risked driving a wedge between the UK and its allies.

'Loaded gun'

Arriving at the summit, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte suggested it would be wiser to "keep your loaded gun in your pocket" until later in order not to "put pressure on negotiations" before they had even started.

The EU's 27 member states must set a ceiling for what they are prepared to spend in total over the 2014-20 period, as well as discuss how much will be set aside for specific areas such as business, agriculture and security.

The European Commission's proposed budget for 2014-20 would see a 5% increase in spending on the current seven-year period, with a ceiling of 1,033 billion euros (£831bn).

Who wants what from the EU budget deal?

The UK, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands are among those who have said such a rise would be unacceptable at a time of austerity across the continent.

The UK has described a separate proposal from European Council President Herman van Rompuy for a 973 billion euro (£782bn) ceiling as a step in the right direction.

But the UK believes that further cuts, potentially of up to 80bn euros, can be achieved, as Mr Van Rompuy's plan anticipates substantial increases in certain areas such as infrastructure spending.

MPs voted last month to back a real-terms cut in spending.

But UK officials have acknowledged this will be difficult to achieve given many of the EU's poorer nations - unlike the UK, Germany and France - are net beneficiaries of the budget and unlikely to countenance any cuts.

Mr Van Rompuy is expected to hold other one-on-one meetings with EU leaders on Thursday to establish what their "red lines" are ahead of general negotiations, which officials admit could slip into Saturday or even Sunday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she is not sure the summit will come up with a "definitive deal" and EU leaders may have to reconvene early in the new year.

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  77.  
    12:13: House of Commons Parliament

    Now we're on to this morning's story about "major incidents" being declared by NHS trusts. Mr Cameron says the new guidance on when one can be declared was issued by the NHS in the West Midlands, "without any instruction" from ministers or the Department of Health.

     
  78.  
    12:10: Miliband v Cameron House of Commons Parliament

    Ed Miliband is asking about David Cameron's "bare knuckle fight" to preserve A&E and maternity units. The PM responds by returning to the Labour leader's comment - to BBC political editor Nick Robinson - about wanting to "weaponise" the NHS. He demands an apology, Mr Miliband says it is a "ridiculous smokescreen".

     
  79.  
    @iainjwatson Iain Watson, BBC political correspondent

    Tweets: No surprise that Ed Miliband goes on the #NHS consistently top of voters concerns according to polls

     
  80.  
    12:09: Picture: Ed Miliband House of Commons Parliament
    Ed Miliband
     
  81.  
    12:08: Cigarette packaging Robin Brant Political Correspondent, BBC News

    The Prime Minister's official spokesman has refused to say directly if David Cameron supports moves to bring it in The government has pledged to give MPs a vote on new regulations before the election. Asked if the PM was concerned about the prospect of a rebellion by some of his own MPs the spokesman said: "The right thing to do is to proceed as the government has set out for some considerable time."

     
  82.  
    12:06: Labour's Eds listen to first answer
    Ed Balls and Ed Miliband
     
  83.  
    12:06: NHS at PMQs House of Commons Parliament

    The NHS gets its first PMQs mention in question two, from Labour MP Lilian Greenwood who suggests the health service is not a priority for David Cameron. The PM says the government has invested in the NHS and attacks Labour's record in Wales.

     
  84.  
    @MartynExpress Martyn Brown, Daily Express political correspondent

    Tweets: Women on front bench - Tories 8 v Labour 8 #pmqs

     
  85.  
    12:05: Picture: Cameron takes first question
    David Cameron
     
  86.  
    12:04: Picture: Frank Field House of Commons Parliament
    Frank Field Labour MP Frank Field asks when the Chilcot inquiry report will be published
     
  87.  
    12:04: PMQs under way

    Labour MP Frank Field gets Prime Minister's Questions up and running, asking about delays to the Iraq War inquiry. David Cameron says he too is frustrated at the timing.

     
  88.  
    12:04: UKIP defector James Landale Deputy Political Editor, BBC News

    James Landale says most voters won't be too bothered by the negative stories emerging about Amjad Bashir, the former UKIP MEP who has defected to the Tories. He says: "As ever with defections, they are never as clean as political parties would like. The problem for UKIP is that most voters are less aware of the detail that goes on underneath."

     
  89.  
    @nedsimons 12:03: Ned Simons, Huffington Post UK assistant political editor

    Tweets: Can't wait for Miliband and Cameron to shout NHS statistics at each other for ten minutes. #PMQs

     
  90.  
    12:01: Miliband's only PMQs option: The NHS James Landale Deputy Political Editor, BBC News

    James Landale on the Daily Politics says he thinks the Labour leader will focus all six of his questions on the NHS. "I would be amazed if Ed Miliband doesn't go on health - that's his subject of the week, he has to go on it. "

     
  91.  
    12:00: Immigration target Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Earlier on Daily Politics David Willetts was pressed by Andrew Neil to accept that the Conservatives have failed on immigration. Ministers had sought to cut net migration below 100,000. Mr Willetts suggested a Tory-only government might have made more progress, saying: "We had a commitment in our manifesto which was not part of the coalition agreement and therefore not the basis on which the government was to act."

     
  92.  
    12:00: NHS England BBC News Channel

    Dr Barbara Hakin, national director of commissioning operations for NHS England, says: "Local hospitals continue to have responsibility for deciding whether to declare major incidents, but before doing so best practice dictates that they take account of the wider impacts on other parts of the NHS so that patient safety in the round is protected. That's why NHS England's local area team in the West Midlands decided to issue these guidelines. This was not a decision of the Department of Health."

     
  93.  
    12:00: Major NHS incidents BBC Radio 5 live

    John Pienaar tells 5Live that Guidance to NHS Trusts on declaring a major incident will surely feature during PMQs

     
  94.  
    11:57: EU-US trade deal

    Trade minister Lord Livingston is facing questioning about the EU-US trade deal which many fear could reduce Britain's control over the NHS. Around 150,000 people responded to a recent EU consultation on the issue voicing their concerns, most of them negative. But Lord Livingston, a strong supporter of the deal, is not concerned. "Ninety-seven per cent of the responses were standard," he says. "I'm not entirely sure that represents the totality of everyone's views. However, it's important we recognise everyone's concerns."

     
  95.  
    11:55: 'No-go areas' Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Quentin Letts, the Daily Mail sketchwriter, is on BBC Two's Daily Politics talking about the issues the political parties would rather steer clear of. Neither the Conservatives nor Labour want to discuss Trident, he claims, while the Liberal Democrats are keen to avoid talking about anything connected with tuition fees. "There are issues that are of great interest to the voters, and yet the politicians are shying away from it," Letts says. "It's totally unsustainable, particularly with such a long election campaign."

     
  96.  
    11:52: 'Responsibility of the government' House of Commons Parliament

    Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Ivan Lewis cautions MPs on the government side about "believing everything that you read in the Sun" concerning alleged contacts between Labour and Sinn Fein.

    Conservative Andrew Robathan had suggested that Labour should speak to Sinn Fein about security in Northern Ireland.

    Mr Lewis says that Conservatives are asking that "the Labour party take responsibility for things that are clearly the responsibility of the government".

     
  97.  
    11:46: Daily Politics line-up

    Joining Andrew Neil and Jo Coburn on Daily Politics are ex-Conservative minister David Willetts and Labour's shadow minister Caroline Flint. They are discussing the suggestion that up to 100 Conservative MPs might oppose the plan to bring in standardised (plain) cigarette packaging.

    Daily Politics
     
  98.  
    11:42: Labour and Sinn Fein House of Commons Parliament

    Conservative MP Andrew Robathan asks about a story, reported in the Sun, that "the Labour party have been talking to Sinn Fein about a possible link-up after the election".

    A cry of "absolute rubbish!" is heard from the Labour benches.

     
  99.  
    11:38: Northern Ireland questions House of Commons Parliament

    Northern Ireland questions have begun in the Commons. The first question is from Labour MP Tom Greatrex, about the the security situation in Northern Ireland. NI Secretary Theresa Villiers tells him the threat level remains "severe" but there have been "a number of significant arrests, charges and convictions".

     
  100.  
    @EmmaReynoldsMP 11:32: Emma Reynolds, shadow housing minister

    tweets: Since 2010 we have been building 356 fewer homes than we need - Gov't is presiding over the lowest level of house building since 1920s.

     

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