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Brown rejects EU criticism of efforts in tackling debt

Gordon Brown last night rejected criticism from the EU Commission that the UK is not doing enough to tackle its spiralling deficit.

The Prime Minister insisted the Government had “the most ambitious plan of any advanced country” to halve the debt in four years.

The comments came after a leaked version of a report, due to be published by the Commission tomorrow, warned Britain was not on track to reduce its deficit in line with EU rules by 2015.

The document also questions Treasury forecasts for economic growth over the coming years, saying they could be optimistic if the global economy fails to perform as strongly as expected.

The concerns were seized on by the Tories, who claimed they dealt Mr Brown's credibility a “heavy blow”.

“The Conservatives have been arguing that we need to reduce our record budget deficit more quickly in order to support the recovery,” shadow chancellor George Osborne said.

“Our argument is backed by credit rating agencies, business leaders, international investors and now the European Commission.

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“That is why we need a change of Government to restore confidence in our economy at home and abroad.”

But speaking at a press conference in Downing Street, Gordon Brown insisted: “We have the most ambitious plan of any of the advanced countries for reducing our deficit.

“We are going to cut our deficit by half over the next four years.

“We are setting out, as we have done in the Pre-Budget Report and again in the Budget, how we will do that to the best effect.

“But what we will not do is put the recovery at risk.“

The European Commission's leaked report states: “The fiscal strategy in the convergence programme is not sufficiently ambitious and needs to be significantly reinforced.

“A credible timeframe for restoring public finances to a sustainable position requires additional fiscal tightening measures beyond those currently planned.”

The report will be published once it has been endorsed by a meeting of the Commissioners tomorrow.

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