» Wednesday, June 8, 2005

EU Rebate

Asked whether the Prime Minister had meant when he had said during Prime Minister’s Questions that he would "not negotiate away the rebate" that there was some scope between zero and the current rebate, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said the position was actually very simple and the Prime Minister had set out the case many times. Others may raise the rebate as a subject. That was their prerogative. But we believed that, given the balance of payments in Europe, it was wholly justified and we would argue our case. We had a veto and if necessary we were prepared to use it. Asked if, when thinking back to the Berlin summit that agreed people could not benefit from any further windfall, whether we were saying that any capping or limits were totally out of the question, the PMOS said that others may come up with arguments. We would deal with those arguments as and when they arose. The basis of our position was that we believed that in the interest of fairness in terms of overall contribution on balance of payments the rebate was fully justified. It was up to others if they wanted to put forward arguments but we would argue our case for basic fairness.

Asked if "fully justified" meant, "justified in full", the PMOS said that wholly justified meant what it said: "wholly justified". He would not get into word games. Asked why, when we usually avoided the veto word, we were using it and whether it was a warning of intent to other countries, the PMOS said that what we were trying to do was to avoid speculation about what might happen. All we could do was state the basic case. The basic case was that given the balance of payments we believed it was wholly justified. That remained our position. Asked if "wholly justified" was an argument used to preserve the rebate why then would we not say it was non-negotiable, the PMOS said, as he had before, that what we were trying to avoid was this being presented as a macho stance when it was an argument about the fairness of the balance of payments and why the rebate came into existence. Therefore in terms of where we were now we believed the rebate was still fully justified.

In response to the suggestion that his words seemed tentative and conditional and that things had changed since the rebate was conceded so there now seemed plenty possibilities for mutual accommodation, the PMOS said he had been entirely consistent in what he had said over the last month. The language he had always used was that the rebate was wholly justified and that remained the case.

Asked if he was in effect acknowledging that there was no prospect for sufficiently radical CAP structure of funds in order to remove the rational for the rebate, the PMOS said that it was entirely for others to put forward arguments and it was our prerogative to respond to them. Asked if we had been choosing our words carefully over the recent period and whether the formula of words should therefore be taken as presented, the PMOS said that what we were trying to do was both set out our position and explain why we were at that position and he hoped his words reflected that. Asked if CAP was a closed book until 2013 following the last CAP agreement that lasted from 2002 – 2013 or whether it could be reopened, the PMOS said that in terms of the precise status of the CAP agreements people should speak to the FCO. Our position on the need for reform of CAP was well known and he reminded journalists we were approaching the WTO round.

Asked if we had seen any acceptable proposals from Luxembourg, the PMOS said that we had not seen any proposals that were in any way acceptable to us and we would not speculate on behalf of the Presidency. Asked if we expected any EU budget that was in excess of 1%, the PMOS said that the simple fact of the matter was we believed 1% was the right level. In response to the suggestion that the German position on this had moved, the PMOS said that he spoke for the British Prime Minister and others would speak for their Governments, but we believed that 1% was the right level for the EU budget. Asked if we had seen the Luxembourg proposals, the PMOS said that they had published their proposals some time ago and we said at the time that they were not acceptable and that remained our position.

Asked what he might be able to tell journalists about any new proposals Britain might have during its Presidency to affect reforms that might change the rationale, the PMOS said that it was always a good idea to finish one Presidency before you started talking about the next.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

1 Comment »

  1. Why does the British government persist with this stance on the budget rebate? While it may play well with the Eurosceptics back home, the damage it is doing to our standing in Europe as a whole is much worse. It sends the unequivocal message that we are only in the E.U. for what we cna get out of it, no matter what. At this delicate time, it would be more in Britain’s and the E.U.’s interest for us to make a concession, both to defuse accusations that we are behind the over-liberalisation of the E.U. economic landscape, and because it would be capital for the forthcoming presidency.

    Once upon a time, the rebate might have been justified, but this country is much richer now, and it cannot be right that even the Eastern European countries are aaying into our rebate. Surely we could at least allow it to be frozen, or to be subsumed in the wider scope of budget balancing that other countries have proposed.

    This government is yet again going to shoot itself in the foot.

    Comment by I Stock — 9 Jun 2005 on 5:43 pm | Link

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