» Wednesday, December 14, 2005

EU Budget

Asked how we expected discussions to go when President Barroso had said the UK's proposals were not good enough and the French were calling for a complete review of the rebate mechanism, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said we also believed in a review. We had said that if the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was on the table then the rebate was on the table. There were different ways of skinning a cat. In terms of the overall reaction at this stage it was important that people recognised that there was a pattern to how Europe approached these matters. We never believed that we would arrive at a situation where today we could say there was a deal. People had concerns and we had acknowledged many times that this would not be anybody's ideal deal. In the end people had a choice and that choice was whether to accept what may not be the ideal deal, but was at least a "bird in the hand" particularly for the accession countries, or hold out for some future deal that may never arrive. The issues were not going to go away nor get any simpler. We believed that there was momentum towards a deal and we would see what happened when we got to Brussels.

Briefing took place at 16:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

EU Budget

Asked for details of the amendments the UK's EU budget proposals, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that they amounted to a modest increase in the size of the budget from 847 billion euros to 849 billion euros. The overall ceiling remained below 1.03%. They would include measures which enhanced funding for new member states (allowing them to claim back VAT for structural fund projects), making it easier for them to access and use the funds available, and increase the impact of funding on the ground. They also addressed some of the specific concerns and helped the net position of individual member states. The revisions would be worth real money to the new member states and would, in practical terms, take them near where they were in terms of the Luxembourg proposals. There are no revisions to the rebate in this proposals or to the review clause. We would still be making an extra contribution of 8 billion euro to the new member states, which was equivalent to halving our rebate on the structural funds provided to new member states.

Briefing took place at 16:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Education White Paper

Asked whether the Prime Minister had meant when he said that he would stick with his Education White Paper that he would not consider or debate the changes put down by colleagues, the PMOS said that we should separate the fact from Westminster rumour mill. We had not signaled yesterday that we were prepared to make massive changes now. That was not what we were about. The Prime Minister of course was prepared to listen to what MPs and others had to say and discuss the matter with them. However we would decide matters on their merits and people should be careful about getting carried away.

Briefing took place at 16:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Education White Paper

Asked for a response to the publication of an alternative White Paper on Education, the PMOS said that the first thing was to clarify that the Prime Minister was very ready to have a dialogue with people. We should however have a dialogue on facts rather than rumour. In terms of the code on admissions, the revisions on that started before the General Election and before the White Paper. What we were talking about was a delay from January until the White paper is published. The code wasn't actually part of the legislation. It was already there. We should also be clear that the White Paper did not suggest changes to the selection process. In fact the only changes that the White Paper would suggest was that the role of the adjudicator was strengthened by allowing the adjudicator's guidance to run for 3 years rather than 1 year.

Briefing took place at 16:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

Stormont Spy Ring

Asked about the abandonment of charges against those accused of the Stormont spy ring, the PMOS said there was a legal difficulty in answering this and the Prime Minster's answer had reflected that at Prime Minister's Questions. What we could say categorically however was that there was no political inference in this case. The Secretary of State had not interfered in this case and the Prime Minister had not interfered in this case. Therefore if they were people's concerns then they should be laid to rest.

Briefing took place at 16:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

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