Cam slams EU 'pickpockets'
David Cameron has said Brussels must stop "picking the pockets" of the public as pressure mounts on the Prime Minister to reject a hike in the European Union's budget.
Speaking at the CBI conference in London, the Prime Minister insisted he was ready to take a tough line in negotiations on the 2014-20 budget this week.
"I make absolutely no apologies for standing up strongly for Britain in Europe on some of our priorities," he said.
"I think I have got the people of Europe on my side in arguing that we should stop picking their pockets and spending more and more money through the EU budget, particularly when so many parts of the European budget are not well spent."
Mr Cameron spent this weekend lobbying fellow EU leaders over the phone on the issue.
Downing Street revealed today that the Prime Minister had spoken to his counterparts in France, Germany, Holland, Sweden, Denmark and Poland in a bid get them onside. The Deputy Prime Minister is also taking part in the phone offensive with plans to speak to his counterparts in Finland and other Baltic countries.
"The Prime Minister has been hitting the phones this weekend, speaking to several European partners as we continue to work constructively to find a deal on the EU's multi-annual budgetry cycle," said a Number 10 spokeswoman.
She added: "The Prime Minister will make further calls today and tomorrow."
Mr Cameron wants to acheive "at best a cut, at worst a freeze" to the EU budget, according to Number 10. The spokeswoman said: “We think we can agree a deal.”
Business Secretary Vince Cable backed up Mr Cameron's stance. Speaking to the BBC's World At One programme, he said: "The Prime Minister's line on the European budget has been absolutely spot on. There are obviously differences of approach between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives in general on Europe but on this issue we have no difference... We have to take a hard line on this."
But Mr Cable criticised Labour's stance on the EU budget, saying Ed Miliband "hasn't been terribly helpful".
Ken Clarke also attacked Mr Miliband’s decision to encourage Labour to vote with Tory rebels in favour of a cut in the budget.
"In his public utterances he’s taken a very strong line on the budget, for example. That’s where the Labour party suddenly got carried away and leapt in to the same division lobby with people with whom they fundamentally disagree," he told the Today programme.
The Prime Minister this morning told the CBI conference calling for a larger EU budget was "simply not credible".