Britain nears EU budget agreement

Britain nears EU budget agreement
A deal will be struck with Britain to set the bloc's long-term budget despite Prime Minister Cameron's (above) threat to wield his veto.

LONDON - EU officials are optimistic that a deal will be struck with Britain to set the bloc's long-term budget despite Prime Minister David Cameron's threat to wield his veto, the FT reported on Thursday.

In an apparent breakthrough on the eve of the two-day Brussels summit of European leaders, the Financial Times reported that Cameron was prepared to accept a 940 billion euro (US$1.2 trillion, S$1.5 trillion) spending ceiling from 2014 to 2020.

He had initially vowed to settle only for a real-terms freeze from 2011 levels - which Britain believes would be equivalent to 886 billion euros - but could still claim he had won a budget cut if the new plan proceeds.

"Our feeling is that Mr Cameron got what he wanted," an EU official told the paper. Senior EU diplomats have warned the extraordinary summit, kicking off at 1900 GMT, could drag on into the weekend.

Eight of the net contributor nations - Austria, Britain, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Netherlands

and Sweden - have banded together to demand spending cuts, though they are far from being on the same page on what should go or by how much. The latest proposals on the table meanwhile have left Britain having to pay in part for its cherished yearly rebate of 3.6 billion euros, while diminishing Sweden's rebate, and failing to address Denmark's demand to have a discount too.

Asked by a lawmaker Wednesday if he would defend Britain's rebate during the talks, Cameron told parliament: "I can certainly give my honourable friend that assurance."

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