Cameron triumphs as European leaders agree on first-ever budget cut
The £30 billion of cuts include a £1.7 billion reduction in the size of the EU’s administrative budget, which will cut the pay and perks of the 55,000 European civil servants.
The summit was the first since Mr Cameron committed to renegotiate Britain’s EU membership and put the result to an in/out referendum by 2017.
That promise had drawn warnings that Britain will lose influence in Europe, and some EU leaders used it to challenge Mr Cameron over the budget. “Why should we listen to a country that might not be in the EU in 2017,” asked a French source.
However, Mr Cameron has, for now, won the crucial support of Angela Merkel of Germany, the biggest contributor to the EU budget.
Her backing for deeper cuts in the budget secured Mr Cameron’s victory, and left Mr Hollande looking weakened and isolated.
Despite the historic reduction in the overall size of the EU budget the British government could still end up have to pay more in contributions into Brussels budgets.
Officials have calculated that Britain’s payments could rise by £500 million as share of the budget going to newer member countries, such as Poland and Romania that joined the EU after 2004, increases.
British sources said that because the UK gets no rebate on spending in the new member states, a deal signed by Tony Blair in 2005, the UK’s net contribution is expected to drift upwards.
The budget deal must still be approved by the European Parliament, which has vowed to reject it.
Martin Shulz, the German president of the parliament, is organising a secret ballot among MEPs in March where they could seek the veto the budget without being identified by voters or their home governments.
“Those MEPs who have asked for a secret ballot have their reasons,” Mr Schulz said. “There is a lot of pressure on members to vote in a certain direction.”