by Ray Fleming

D avid Cameron is entitled to feel satisfied with the outcome of the European Union budget negotiations which ended yesterday afternoon after the obligatory all-night session.

The budget for the next seven years was set at 908.4 billion euros -- 34 billion less than the current rate but rather more than the target that Mr Cameron set at the November talks of 886 billion.

Whether the prime minister will find a red carpet laid down by his disgruntled MPs when he reports to the House of Commons on Monday remains to be seen but he will be able to point out that the reduction he argued for with Chancellor Angela Merkel's important support was the first cut in the seven-year budget provision in the EU's history.

It is inevitable that Mr Cameron's association with others in this budget trimming exercise will be presented at home as evidence of how right he is about the reform of the EU's future role and Britain's part in it.

But the two things are totally different -- one a matter of juggling the figures, the other of continuing the work of 50 years in establishing the EU as a major influential force in the world.

Those who were tossing the word “historic” around in Brussels yesterday to describe a modest three per cent reduction in the EU's budget only showed the limitation of their vision.