The Straits Times
Published on Feb 08, 2013

British PM set to claim victory in EU budget talks


BRUSSELS (AFP) - British Prime Minister David Cameron appeared to have won his battle for austerity in Brussels on Friday after European Union leaders looked set to cut the bloc's budget for the first time ever.

Mr Cameron had vowed to accept nothing less than a freeze or a cut in EU spending and proposals put to all-night talks suggested the budget would be cut by three percent. Aides cautioned that a lot of work still needed to be done even if the British press was already describing the talks as a glorious success for Mr Cameron, under pressure from growing eurosceptism at home.

The prime minister had laid his cards on the table as soon as he arrived at the summit on Thursday, insisting the European Union was not immune to the belt-tightening measures being imposed across the continent.

But critics had warned he had left himself with few allies following his veto of a crucial eurozone deal in 2011, his budget demands that caused the last summit in November to collapse, and last month's pledge to hold a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU. The pledge succeeded in calming eurosceptic aspects in his Conservative party but it sparked concerns in many European capitals by putting the prospect of a British exit on the table for the first time.