By Paul Goodman

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5pm: The summit has broken up without agreement.  David Cameron has said:

 "All of these countries are net contributors to the EU. In other words,
like Britain, they write the cheques.

Together, we had a very clear message – 'We are not going to be
tough on budgets at home just to come here and sign up to big increases
in European spending'."

But we still believe a deal is absolutely do-able. Freezing the budget is not an extreme position." 

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: The Prime Minister described what was on offer as "not good enough", said "unaffordable spending" was being cut in its
member countries and EU institutions had to start to live in the "real
world", and added that what had been mooted amounted to "tinkering". We put down a very clear marker," he said the PM.

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5.15pm: Short of the cut in the budget and in Britain's contribution – which were never going to happen, let alone together – the best outcome for Mr Cameron will have been –

a) For the summit to break up without a conclusion (leaving him with no settlement that Conservative backbenchers would view as unsatisfactory, and therefore at no risk of losing another Parliamentary vote on the budget), and –

b) For him not to be blamed for a break-up.  Nicholas Watt's tweet above shows the Prime Minister trying to avoid it – and be seen to avoid it.

5.30pm: Over at the Spectator Coffee House, James Forsyth writes that Downing Street is pleased that Mr Cameron isn't taking the blame for the break-up, that his criticisms of EU extravagance have struck a chord, and that:

"…what is giving them the greatest satisfaction is how solicitous of the
British position Angela Merkel was. They regard this as a promising sign
for the coming renegotiation. It’s evidence — they believe — that
Merkel doesn’t want to put this country is a position where it ends up
walking away from Europe.

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The Prime Minister has said that he supports British membership of the EU, but no the status quo.  Harry Cole has tweeted that Mr Cameron will get the headlines he wants tomorrow (see above), and I think this is right.

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He is certainly getting some of the tweets he wants – as above from John Rentoul of the Independent on Sunday, Tom Newton-Dunn of the Sun, and Iain Martin of the Daily Telegraph – who's not always the Prime Minister's greatest fan.

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Conservative MPs will have to be quicker off the mark. Not many up and about yet on Twitter backing Mr Cameron up.  Are they waiting for their pager messages?  But Matthew Hancock is wide awake.

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Labour are making the best of a bad fist, but have nowhere much to go.  They are wide-open to counter-attack over what they would have done, and the Prime Minister's supporters are making the most of it.

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Penultimately for the moment – and more importantly than the political manovering – what does this institutional impotence say about the future of the EU?  I believe that it will advance the case for renegotiation and a referendum by a few modest steps – perhaps more.

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And finally in these testing times…it is comforting to know that, despite today's disappointments, the EU institutions will never waver in meeting the challenge of these austere times (see above).

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