Taoiseach hits out at Cameron over EU budget cap
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen has hit out at claims by the British premier that an EU spending cap is all sewn up.
David Cameron yesterday said the EU's 2011 budget would not rise by more than 2.9pc next year. However, Mr Cowen said the deal was still up for negotiation.
"The EU budget is the outcome of an EU decision," Mr Cowen told reporters.
"I know that our British counterparts concentrate on their own personalities, but we have a European Council position here and I support the council position."
Mr Cameron saluted British efforts to get 12 allies onside -- among them EU heavyweights France, Germany and the Netherlands -- to face down European Parliament demands to boost spending by 5.9pc.
The parliament has joint decision-making powers on the bloc's budget.
"The 6pc increase is dead," Mr Cameron said after a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels, adding that budget talks had not been on the summit agenda before he waded in.
Conciliation talks between the parliament and national governments are still ongoing and are not due to conclude until mid-November.
But Mr Cameron's 13-country majority bloc is enough to escalate the institutional confrontation, leaving negotiators "less leeway" when dealing with the parliament, according to one diplomat.
In a letter to Belgian premier Yves Leterme and the summit chairman Herman Van Rompuy, Mr Cameron and his supporters wrote that the MEPs' demands were "unacceptable at a time when we are having to take difficult decisions at national level to control public expenditure".
EU ministers agreed in August that a rise of 2.9pc on the EU's €122bn budget could be countenanced for next year.
"We are clear that we can not accept any more than this," Mr Cameron insisted in his letter.
Ireland is still a net beneficiary from the EU budget, handing over €1.5bn to Brussels in 2009, but getting back €1.8bn -- most of this in farm aid.