LONDON - British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday that he will fight efforts to cut the country’s rebate at contentious European Union budget talks in Brussels this week.
Britain’s then prime minister Margaret Thatcher obtained a budget rebate in the 1980s on the grounds that London was paying too much towards the bloc. The rebate was worth 3.6 billion euros (S$5.6 billion) last year.
Asked by a lawmaker if he would defend Britain’s rebate during the talks starting Thursday, Cameron told parliament: “I can certainly give my honourable friend that assurance.
“The rebate negotiated by Margaret Thatcher is an incredible part of Britain’s position in Europe and of making sure we get a fair deal.”
Cameron said he would be “fighting incredibly hard for a good deal.”
The British premier has threatened to veto the EU’s 2014-2020 budget unless spending is frozen in real terms, saying that at a time of austerity at home the EU must also make cuts.
But Britain has appeared to warm towards a proposal made last week by EU president Herman Van Rompuy for a 75-billion-euro decrease in the trillion-euro budget that would leave Britain’s rebate intact.
The issue of rebates is likely to be toxic at the summit, though, with French President Francois Hollande on Monday criticising countries seeking rebates and discounts in the budget.
He did not name names but Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Austria have all negotiated rebates.
France meanwhile has strongly opposed any cuts to the Common Agricultural Policy – a farm aid programme of which France is the main beneficiary, and which is the EU’s biggest single budget item.