Put to him that President Chirac had called on the UK to make a gesture about the rebate, what sort of gesture would be made in return from the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) asked the journalist did he want a verbal answer or something else? The PMOS said that during the period 1995 - 2003, the UK was the second largest net contributor after Germany to the EU, and even with the rebate, we paid 2.5 times more than either France or Italy. During the same period, without the rebate, we would have paid fifteen times more than France and twelve times more than Italy. Under Commission proposals for 2007 - 2013, without a rebate, we would still be paying 2.5 times more than either France or Italy, despite the fact that our economy was not doing 2.5 times as well as France's.
Asked for further information on the discussion of Europe at Cabinet today, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) explained that it was a review of the Dutch and French referendum results and a preview of how we would approach the Council meeting next week. The Prime Minister emphasised again that the way forward had to be decided by all twenty five countries, and not by any one individual country. He also underlined why we had taken the position we had, and why we believed this was a period for serious reflection on behalf of all Europe.
Asked whether Zimbabwe would be brought into discussions today with President Obasanjo, the PMOS said we were obviously very concerned about the situation. We had made representations accordingly, and would continue to do so. We also were working with our EU partners and extended EU sanctions for a further twelve months in February. We had discussed with our EU partners an updating of the list of those of the Mugabe regime on the travel ban, and we would continue to make our views known.
Asked whether it would be better if the Chair of the ISC came from the Opposition party, the PMOS said it was a matter that was resolved by the normal channels, which was how it had been resolved in the past, and how it would continue to be done. It had been handled in the same way as it had been done by previous administrations. It was therefore in that spirit that Paul Murphy had been put forward as the new chairman.
Asked why he had been made a member of the Privy Council, the PMOS said it was in recognition of his work as a Minister.
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