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BRUSSELS: British Prime Minister David Cameron stuck firmly to his sceptical approach to Europe yesterday, threatening to veto the bloc’s budget and defend London’s interests against all comers.
But fighting his corner did not mean that he wanted out of Europe—Cameron wanted in, to get the best for Britain even if that means opposing some of Brussels’ ambitious plans for tighter policy control over member states.
“I just don’t accept that,” he said after a two-day EU summit when pressed by British reporters over whether increasingly eurosceptic rhetoric from him and his Conservative Party suggested a growing threat to quit the EU.
“We are sceptical... realists about the EU,” he said, adding that of course Britain wanted some powers back from Brussels but he also wanted Europe to work, given its economic and political importance to the country.
Pressed again over one of London’s major sticking points, the EU’s trillion-euro 2014-20 budget, Cameron was forthright.
“The short answer is ‘Yes,’” Cameron said when asked if he would veto the EU budget at a summit in November if it includes increases in spending at a time when member state budgets are being cut.
“We can’t have EU spending going up and up,” he said.
“It would not be acceptable to see a huge increase in spending when budgets are being cut.”
All 27 EU members meet next month to thrash out an accord on the 2014-20 budget proposed by the European Commission.
Cameron has been at the forefront of calls to slash at least ¤100bn ($130bn) from the budget, to match in part the cuts many states have adopted to balance their finances and face up to the eurozone debt crisis.
A veto by non-euro Britain would put the budget back on the starting blocks.
French President Francois Hollande said he expected the November 22-23 budget summit would prove difficult and last well into the night.
“That one, that one is going to be long,” Hollande said, pointing to the likelihood of tough talks over “several nights.”
Cameron also took the opportunity to say he would not attend the ceremony awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU, saying Nato, the US-led Cold War alliance against the Soviet Union, had played a role too in keeping the peace.
“I personally won’t be going... there will be enough other people to collect it,” the day after EU President Herman Van Rompuy invited all 27 leaders to go to Oslo for the prize award.
“My suggestion was for a schoolchild from (each of) the 27 member states” to go, the prime minister said.