David Cameron chooses his EU targets

David Cameron carrying a ministerial red box in Brussels Image copyright Reuters

What many will describe as failure, David Cameron has described as "progress."

After two long days of talking, EU leaders may not have agreed a budget deal but the prime minister said that at least an "unacceptable deal" had been stopped.

What obviously pleased him just as much was the fact that Britain was not isolated here. The Dutch and the Swedes argued for a budget freeze and the Germans and the Danes were sympathetic too.

Mr Cameron chose not to blame countries demanding more spending - the French for their farmers or the Poles for their so-called cohesion funds.

Instead, he targeted the institutions of Brussels and, though not by name, Europe's two Presidents.

The EU Commission had, Mr Cameron said, failed to offer up a single euro in savings - an insult to taxpayers. The chair of this summit had not stood up for taxpayers' interests.

British proposals to curb the pay and pensions of European civil servants and to freeze certain programmes had been ignored.

The prime minister left Brussels looking confident. He will expect a good reception back home. He will know, however, that next year an EU budget deal will have to be done.