» Thursday, May 19, 2005


Asked what the Government’s response was to the EU Commission’s proposal to freeze the EU rebate, the PMOS replied that unless the journalist had heard something he hadn’t, we had not yet received a proposal, so it was better to wait until one had been received.

Put to him that when we said the rebate was fully justified, did that mean the figure was as it stood at the moment, the PMOS said that we had always said the rebate was fully justified because of the level at which we paid money into the EU as it was higher than that of other countries. That remained the case, and nothing had changed in terms of our position on the rebate. The PMOS said he was not getting involved in a detailed discussion about amounts.

Asked again if the figure now remained a headline figure, the PMOS said again that it was fully justified because of the balance of payments within Europe as it currently existed. That had obvious implications. What we needed to focus on, however, was the wider question about the size of the commission budget and the need to reduce the proposals of the commission that had come forward, and to keep the overall budget in mind.

At this point a "tardis" phone ring interrupted the lobby, and the PMOS said he thought people had just discovered his secret escape route, if the questions became too hard!!

He concluded that that at the moment, the balance of payments as they stood, meant that the rebate was fully justified.

Asked again about whether the rebate would still be justified if the CAP was reduced, the PMOS said he realised it was tempting to jump ahead, but we were dealing with where we were at the moment. We will argue that the rebate was fully justified, and that was our position. If other people wanted to come forward with a counter-argument, then they could. However, it was better to wait and see if people did come forward with other arguments before we tried to jump ahead ourselves.

Asked which elements of the Commission’s budget did we wish to see reduced, the PMOS said that the Chancellor and the Treasury had already spoken about this.

Asked to comment about the Commission’s brief that Britain’s line on the trade with developing countries was "unhelpful", the PMOS said he did not think, having heard the trade commissioner on the radio this morning, that that was the case. The PMOS said the substance of the issue was that we wanted to help developing countries to take the benefit of getting access to world trade, but we wanted to do it in such a way that allowed them to grow their own economies, and that was the essential balance that we wanted to strike. It was in the developed countries’ interest that we did so, as the more the developing countries were able to grow their own economies at the pace that suited their individual positions, the less dependant they will become on developed countries. There was a balance to be struck.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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