David Cameron has promised to fight for a "good deal" for British taxpayers on the European Union budget as he welcomed German chancellor Angela Merkel to Number 10 for talks.
The Prime Minister declined to say whether he was urging her to back the real-terms budget cut that the Commons voted for last week.
Merkel refused to say whether she would even support a freeze, which Cameron is pressing for at a crunch summit later this month.
But, ahead of their meeting, Cameron said they were "both believers that European countries have to live within their means, as well as the European Union".
Asked whether he would be urging his German counterpart to support a cut or a freeze in the EU budget, he said: "I believe it would be wrong for the European budget to increase at a time when we are having to make difficult decisions not just in Britain but all over the European Union to get our budgets back to balancing.
"That's why I've said it should be at best a cut, at worst a freeze.
"Whatever the discussions we have I will be trying to get a good deal for the British taxpayer, a good deal for Britain, one that I can put before the British Parliament, one that I can put before the British people."
Speaking through an interpreter, Merkel said European leaders always had to "do something that will stand up to public opinion back home".
"Not all of the expenditure that has been earmarked has been used with great efficiency... We need to address that," she said.
But pressed as to whether she would support a budget freeze, she added: "I beg leave to first discuss this with the Prime Minister.
"What is in my interests is that we use our money effectively."
Ahead of their meeting Cameron admitted he did not have "high hopes" of securing a deal between all 27 member states, meaning he could veto the budget.
Cameron has vowed not to return from the summit with anything less than an inflation-only increase - arguing that though he would prefer a real-terms cut, it was unrealistic to expect to get agreement.