David Cameron protested on Thursday night that the 13-strong alliance of European leaders pushing for a deeper single market and free trade had been passed over in favour of a “watered-down” Franco-German growth plan.

At the start of a Brussels summit of European Union leaders, the prime minister took issue that the agenda failed to reflect the pro-liberal reforms set out in a joint letter signed by leaders representing more than half the continent’s voters.

His concerns over the pre-summit process were later echoed by Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, and Mario Monti, the Italian prime minister, who is working closely with Downing Street to accelerate Europe’s economic reforms.

“He was making a point about the process leading up to the [European] council. He did not think it was a good process,” said one Downing Street aide of Mr Cameron’s intervention. “We had an agenda set out by 13 countries and the draft conclusions don’t reflect what was set out.”

Downing Street has placed great stock in new governments such as Spain and Italy signing a joint letter calling for the opening of EU markets in services, digital industries, energy and other sectors.

But many of the specific demands and the timetable laid out in this letter failed to appear in the draft conclusions for the summit, which more closely resembled recent joint statements by Berlin and Paris.

Aides say Mr Cameron’s motivation was less about the details of the reforms and more to “put down a marker” and highlight what London believes is a shift in the council towards a more red-blooded liberal agenda.

Mr Monti’s vocal advocacy of radical measures to improve the governance and implementation of single market reforms is seen as particularly important in challenging the Franco-German dominance of these summits.

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