» Monday, March 21, 2005

European Council Meeting

Asked what the agenda was for the European Council meeting, the PMOS said the items were the Lisbon Agenda, and the Stability and Growth Pact. It was the traditional economic council and those were the issues that would be discussed there.

Asked if the British Government had "bent the rules" with regards to the Growth Pact, the PMOS said that was the journalist’s pejorative way of putting things, which we did not agree with. We had always indicated that we believed that there should be flexibility in the Growth Pact, and it should be reformed to take account of the economic cycle, investment needs, and the sustainability of member state’s debt levels. We welcomed discussions moving in that direction.

Asked if Gordon Brown would be attending, the PMOS said that Finance Ministers were meeting separately.

Asked about the suggestion from Mr. Barroso that we might have to "think again" about Britain’s rebate, the PMOS said it was not on the agenda for this week’s council. We had made our position clear on the rebate, and we stood ready to argue that position, as we had done in the past.

Asked if there was no compromise on that at all, the PMOS said the position had not changed.

Asked if the Prime Minister would mention to Mr. Barroso that we might have a general election, and was he planning to have a talk with Mr. Barroso, the PMOS said he had not noticed that the general election had started! The PMOS also said he did not know whether the Prime Minister would have a chance to talk to Mr. Barroso, nor did he know what the content would be.

Asked if we would be changing our argument regarding the rebate, as it was historically justified on the basis of agricultural subsidy, the PMOS replied that the reason why we believed the rebate was justified was because we compared our contribution to that of France, for example, and there was a disparity. Therefore, if we had to argue the case, then we would do so.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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