David Cameron has stopped the painstakingly constructed European Union budget in its tracks this evening. The Italian media are beside themselves at his insistence that Europe should live within its means and, most importantly, not seek to redirect some of the United Kingdom's rebate, negotiated (if that is quite the word) by Margaret Thatcher in 1984, to European agriculture and alleviating European youth unemployment.
The Italian prime minister, his own and his Party's reputation sullied by association with his administration's coalition partners and their Leader (among other things) had intended to make a splash in Brussels by leading the discussions on policies for work and youth; clean up his image after last night's dinner with Berlusca. Instead all the careful choreographing of the responsible, pragmatic progressive, social democratic leader caring for the fair society and its means within the European framework has gone for a burton under withering English fire.
'Not with our rebate,' Letta has been told sharply. David Cameron has forced Van Rompuy to explain to the other 27 heads of government precisely the terms of the agreement reached this morning on the EU budget that must be agreed by all heads of state as well as the EU Parliament. Where it departs from what was agreed last February, particularly on the UK rebate, it must be renegotiated.
Letta's government looks ever more distasteful at home and ineffective in Europe.
The United Kingdom rebate has been maintained, after David Cameron's rejection of any change to what had been agreed in February. Angela Merkel also noted that "In February we reached agreement that there would be no alteration in the basis of calculation". The budget then went through.