» Thursday, May 19, 2005

EU Referendum

Asked what the principle was behind the idea that we should have our referendum either last, or almost last, and whether there was any truth to the idea that the Government thought it was a good ploy to be able to wait and say 24 other countries had signed up so we ought to sign up now the PMOS said that in terms of the timing of the referendum that was in part dictated by the time it took to take the matter through the House and have a proper debate on that in the House. It was also a relevant issue that we would hold not only the G8 Presidency but also the EU Presidency and that would inevitably consume quite some time. The important thing was that there should be a proper debate in the country as a whole and that was what we would allow.

Asked about the suggestion of a freeze on the rebate and if we would see that as a cut the PMOS said that he had dealt with this in the morning where he had said that we had not received such a proposal and we believed that the current rebate was fully justified, full stop. Asked if in that case if the current rebate was justified and if it continued at that rate would we see that as a cut the PMOS said that this was getting into hypothetical scenarios. The important thing was that we believed the rebate was fully justified because of the balance of funding within Europe. That remained our position. Asked then if we thought it was fully justified with the current rebate at its current level with its year on year increases the PMOS said we should deal with the reality that we had argued for the rebate because of the balance of funding within Europe and that was why we believed it was fully justified because of our position relative to other countries.

Asked if we had a response to President Chirac’s comments and whether it was our understanding that this had to be sorted out by June and finally whether we had a veto on this issue the PMOS that in terms of the discussion in June it would be a matter for the Presidency, which was not us, to sort out the agenda for the June Summit and we would not be second guessing them. However it was not our understanding that there was a deadline as such. In terms of President Chirac it was unwise for us to get involved in other people’s referenda. The President’s view was not coming as much of a surprise as he had stated it after the last Brussels Summit and indeed we had given our response at the time. In terms of the veto we could not be forced into giving up our rebate. Asked if we had already agreed an effective cap with the windfall gain for new member states the PMOS referred journalists to the FCO for that sort of detail.

In response to the suggestion that we seemed to be setting out a negotiating position rather than saying we would never surrender our rebate and linking it with other aspects of European spending the PMOS said that what he was doing was setting out the reasons why. This was not a macho position. This was a reasoned argument and that reasoned argument was that because of the balance of funding within Europe we believed our rebate was fully justified.

Asked, as the prospective country to take over the EU Presidency, what contingency plans we were making for a French no vote the PMOS said that we would deal with whatever the result was once we knew the result and not before. Asked if it was fair to suggest that we had to produce contingency plans the PMOS reminded journalists that we were not the Presidency at the moment and that we would not be for the June Summit.

Briefing took place at 17:00 | Search for related news

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