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Big three demand EU budget freeze

David Cameron has joined forces with France and Germany to demand a real-terms freeze in the European Union budget until the end of the decade.

The Prime Minister published a joint text with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders setting out their demands for restraint in EU spending.

The European allies insisted that the Union's budget should rise by no more than the rate of inflation over the period 2014-20, with Mr Cameron claiming the document put down "a firm marker" of their determination not to allow the budget to swell.

Speaking at the end of the European Council summit in Brussels, the premier said he had secured a "clear and unanimous agreement" that Britain would not be "dragged into bailing out the eurozone" as part of a new stability mechanism to be introduced in 2013.

The UK would still be part of the existing emergency mechanism until then, but that had been a commitment entered into by the former Labour government and "we have to live with it", he said.

Mr Cameron said the text covered negotiations on the EU budgets for 2012 and 2013 as well as the longer-term perspective for 2014-20. "What I am doing, together with our key partners in Europe, is putting down a firm marker for these negotiations," he said.

"All around Europe, countries are tightening their belts to deal with their deficits. Europe can't be immune from that. We want to see real budgetary restraint for 2014-20 - the time of the next financial perspective. That is why the text we will publish talks about at least a real-term freeze in the budget for that period."

He described the agreement between Britain, France and Germany as "incredibly significant" and a "huge achievement". "This is Britain, France and Germany - the three biggest countries in the EU - standing together united on the need for stopping the EU budget getting out of control," he said.

Mr Cameron admitted he wanted the 2011 budget increase to have been lower than the 2.91% agreed during the summit, and would be working for a lower rise for 2012. Britain had pushed for a freeze in 2011 but was outvoted by other countries.

"Even 2.91% means a lot of extra money going from Britain to Brussels, so I want us to do even better in 2012," he said yesterday.

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