» Wednesday, June 15, 2005

EU-Common Agricultural Policy

Asked if the Government still believed, as it had stated after the CAP deal, that there had been significant progress on the issue of CAP reform, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that before 2002 CAP had absorbed something like 70% of the EU budget, it now absorbed 40% of the EU budget, so there had been progress. The Prime Minister said in the House on the 20 October 2002 that the important thing was that as a result of that outcome, enlargement remained on-track and fundamental CAP reform remained on the agenda. He hadn’t said that fundamental CAP reform had been achieved, he had said it remained on the agenda. The important thing was that we had kept it on the agenda and we continued to keep it on the agenda. We didn’t do that for dogmatic reasons, we do it because we believed that the current budget didn’t address the needs of Europe in the 21st Century and therefore it needed to be adapted to do so. Asked if the Government still believed that France had made a dramatic shift on the issue, the PMOS said that that a drop of around 30% in the proportion of money spent on CAP was dramatic. In saying that it wasn’t the completion of the process of reform. It was matter of getting what progress you could, when you could get it in an organisation which worked on a consensus, as the EU did. Anyone could stand on the sidelines and say all sorts of things, but you could only achieve progress in the EU through consensus. Asked what sort of figure we would be looking to end up at, the PMOS said that as he had said this morning, you started from an assessment of the needs of the EU and then you moved forward from that assessment. The important thing was that you didn’t have an artificial figure, but a figure based on an assessment and comparison between different needs. Asked when he expected progress to be made, the PMOS said that these sorts of negotiations tended to take on a life of their own and he was sure this would be no exception. He would not give a running commentary.

Asked what the Prime Minister’s ambitions were for enlisting the new EU member states for his reform agenda, the PMOS said that in terms of the accession states, what was more important was where they started from. They shared a similar view to us on issues such as services and liberalisation of the market. We did not make the case for the rebate in terms of dogma, we made it in terms of fairness. How that worked out was a matter for others and for discussion. He was not going to get into the detail of where various people were or whatever proposals were being made. It was better that we waited for the discussions to take place. The rebate was there because of the distortion of the budget; that was the starting point.

Asked if the Prime Minister was neglecting the domestic agenda, specifically in terms of ASBOs, the PMOS said that he knew the Prime Minister could not go abroad without the Daily Express suggesting that somehow or other the Prime Minister was cut off from the good people of the United Kingdom. The PMOS assured journalists that the Red Boxes also travelled with the Prime Minister and what they contained was very much about the domestic agenda, even when he was abroad. In terms of the specific point, whilst there had been no specific meeting on ASBOs there had been lots of discussion and there would be a meeting in the next few weeks. ASBOS were never far from the Prime Minister’s mind.

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

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