UK sees possible deal on EU budget this week

Written by Reuters | London | Updated: Nov 20 2012, 07:03am hrs
Britain believes a deal can be reached on the European Union budget at crunch talks in Brussels this week, a spokeswoman for prime minister David Cameron told reporters on Monday.

The positive language on prospects for an agreement are in marked contrast to Cameron's comment's earlier this month in which he said he did not have very high hopes on what he called ludicrous proposals for the EU budget.

The spokeswoman gave no reason for the change in tone, but said Cameron had in recent days spoken to leaders in Poland, Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands, and would be calling other EU leaders in the coming days. All but one of those countries - Poland - contacted so far are net contributors to the EU budget, and more likely to be sympathetic to Britain's demands of a real terms freeze in EU spending, if not a real terms cut.

The prime minister believes we can work through these details to get the right deal at this week's summit and we're ready to do that, the spokeswoman said, adding that Cameron had been hitting the phones speaking to other EU leaders.

Cameron has threatened to use Britain's veto at the Nov. 22-23 meeting to decide the EU's next seven-year budget to stop any agreement that is not in the interests of British taxpayers. Earlier on Monday Cameron had indicated Britain's position had some support from at least some European countries.

I feel I have got the people of Europe on my side in arguing that we should stop endlessly picking their pockets and spending more and more money through the EU budget, particularly when so many parts of the EU budget are not well spent, Cameron told reporters at a business conference. Cameron's spokeswoman declined to outline the nature of any prospective deals on the EU budget, saying only that ideas to rein in spending, such as cutting administrative costs, had not yet been explored.