British PM denies backroom deals in EU budget battle

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British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday hailed his alliance with France and Germany in a campaign to keep EU spending under control but denied backroom deals to win them over.

Fresh from victory after pressing the EU Parliament to limit a hike in next year's budget, Cameron rallied support from the other two powerhouses for a drive to restrict European Union spending during an EU summit held to check the eurozone's debt crises.

"All around Europe, countries are tightening their belts to deal with their deficits. (The EU) cannot be immune from that," Cameron told a news conference at the close of a two-day summit, held to set up a permanent financial lifeline for the eurozone.

Ahead of tough budget negotiations next year, Cameron said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and other partners he did not name will publish a text Saturday stating their stance against overspending.

After twisting the parliament's arm into submission to limit the 2011 budget to a 2.9 percent increase to 126.5 billion euros -- instead of a six percent rise -- the British leader said the blc's "big three" wanted to do "even better" in 2012 and 2013.

And for the 27-nation bloc's 2014-2020 budgetary period, the leaders will call for a real-term freeze, he said.

"This is Britain, France and Germany, the three biggest countries in the EU standing together united on the need to stop this budget from getting out of control," he said.

"What I'm doing together with our key partners in Europe is putting down a firm marker for these negotiations," the prime minister said.

But Cameron denied striking secret deals to gain support from his allies, despite Britain's drive to retain a two-decade-old rebate that returns billions of euros annually to London in place of farm payments to France and Germany.

"There's no backroom deals or secret agreements. I will defend very, very strongly the British rebate. We are big net contributors to the EU," he said.

"That rebate is justified."

He also denied he risks alienating new EU members in eastern Europe who fear cuts in the bloc's budget will mean a reduction in crucial regional development aid.

But Poland expressed displeasure at Britain's new move against EU spending.

"I don't think it's necessary, I don't think it's useful, I don't think it's going to show Europe some vision," said Poland's Europe Minister Mikolaj Dowgielewicz.

© 2010 AFP

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