* Conservative rebels want PM to demand EU budget cut
* Defeat on Europe in parliament would hurt Cameron
* EU leaders to seek deal in November on 2014-2020 budget
By Peter Griffiths
LONDON, Oct 31 British Prime Minister David
Cameron faced a revolt in parliament on Wednesday from members
of his Conservative Party demanding in a parliamentary vote that
he push for a cut in the European Union's budget next month.
Although the vote's result will be non-binding, defeat would
damage Cameron by exposing enduring Conservative rifts over
Europe and further undermining his authority after a punishing
period for his coalition government.
Many Britons regard the EU as an incompetent, spendthrift
source of bureaucracy. Britain's ties with the 27-member bloc
are likely to be a big theme in a national election due in 2015.
Cameron wants the EU's long-term budget to rise only in line
with inflation, while Conservative rebels say it should be cut
in real terms to reflect the bleak economic landscape at home
and across Europe.
"This government is taking the toughest line in these budget
negotiations of any government since we joined the European
Union," the prime minister told parliament. "At best we would
like it cut, at worst frozen, and I'm quite prepared to use the
veto if we don't get a deal that's good for Britain."
European leaders meet in Brussels on Nov. 22-23 to try to
reach a deal on the budget for 2014-2020.
The vote, due to be held in the House of Commons later on
Wednesday, is likely to be a close call for Cameron, whose
government has a working majority of 86 in parliament.
The main opposition Labour Party will back the Conservative
rebels, who claim support of at least 40 of the
party's 304 lawmakers.
"We are only asking the government to strengthen its stance
so that there is some real terms reduction in the EU budget,"
said Conservative Mark Reckless, one of the rebels behind the
Cameron wants Britain to remain an EU member but to
renegotiate its role within the bloc, focusing more on trade
links and less on areas like regulation.
Trailing in popularity polls, Cameron faces an uncomfortable
balancing act on Europe, a vexed issue that has divided his
party for decades and helped to bring down former leaders,
including Margaret Thatcher in 1990.
He doesn't want to alienate a majority of voters - and a
powerful Conservative minority - who mistrust Europe and would
probably vote to leave the EU after nearly 40 years.
The Conservative leader must also see off a threat from the
fiercely anti-EU UK Independence Party, which polls suggest has
around 10 percent of the vote, about the same as the pro-Europe
Liberal Democrats, the junior coalition partner.
However, Cameron must also keep the Lib Dems on side and
avoid wrecking relations with the EU, Britain's biggest trading
partner, as the country emerges from a recession and tries to
eliminate its budget deficit.
Caneron is already on the back foot after the resignation
earlier this month of a senior minister who swore at police
guarding his Downing Street office, and a series of missteps and
U-turns since an unpopular budget was presented in March.