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Friday 8th February 2013 | 15:58
David Cameron has praised the new seven-year budget agreed by European Union leaders as "a good deal for Britain".
Speaking from Brussels, the Prime Minister confirmed leaders had reached a deal to cut the EU budget to €908bn, which represents a €24bn real terms cut.
"The best way to protect the British taxpayer is to get overall spending down, which we've done," he told reporters.
"I think the British public can be proud that we have cut the seven-year credit card limit for the European Union for the first time ever."
Mr Cameron described the new deal as a modern and effective "budget for growth", which would encourage research and development across the continent.
"This budget will allow the EU to do the things that it should, in a way that it can afford," he said. "There is no doubt that this is a more modern and effective set of budgets than the ones that preceded it."
But Mr Cameron confirmed the UK's net contribution would increase, despite the cut in the overall budget.
Under a deal agreed by former prime minister Tony Blair in 2005, the UK's rebate - the amount of Britain's contribution paid back to London - will shrink.
The Prime Minister said that deal meant the UK's contribution "was always going to go up", and insisted he had "fought off" a number of attempts to reduce the rebate even further.
"I think people do understand, and we will need to explain, that because of changes to our rebate in 2005, changes that Tony Blair made, that I vigorously opposed at the time, our net contributions were always going to go up. But now they will be going up by less," he said.
"The only way you can best protect the British taxpayer is to keep overall spending down, and that’s what we’ve done, and also to keep what remains of the rebate, and it is completely untouched.
“Attempts to undermine the rebate were made again and again, at almost every meeting there’s been on this subject. As ever, it was attacked from every side. But I fought off these attempts. The British rebate is safe”.
The Prime Minister urged the European Parliament to "engage constructively" with leaders over the deal, and dismissed a plan to hold a secret ballot on the budget as “slightly baffling”.
There are fears the proposed budget will be rejected by MEPs, after European Parliament President Martin Schulz warned EU leaders against attempts to slash spending.
But Mr Cameron called for flexibility over the deal, and warned against "institutional wrangling" between the parliament and the European Council.
“I hope the European Parliament will engage constructively with what the European Council has decided," he said.
"We’ve said that there will be flexibility to try and help in terms of making sure the budgets can be flexed between different subjects. There’s lots of things to talk to with the Parliament, and I hope those conversations will now get going. But I would say to the European Parliament ‘engage with this’, because a deal covering seven years is much better than institutional wrangling between the Council and the Parliament."
He also hit out at suggestions the Parliament could hold a secret ballot on the proposals, warning MEPs they must be accountable for their decisions.
"In my book, you send members of parliament to parliament, they vote and you see how they vote and then you judge how you think they’re getting on. I think that’s what parliaments are all about," he siad.
"Of course the European Parliament has a role, and we should respect that. But I don’t really understand secret ballots. Parliaments and votes should be open, should be transparent, people should be accountable for how they cast their votes."
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