» Monday, December 19, 2005

WTO-G8

Asked what the Prime Minister was going to do to take forward the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agenda after yesterday's talks, and also, was he planning to hold further talks about G8, the PMOS replied that Alan Johnson had set out the Government's position on the deal, and we had already made it clear before this week's meeting that the Prime Minister was not going to let the matter drop. The Prime Minister would return to this matter in the New Year, and we would consider now what the most effective way to do that.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

» Friday, December 16, 2005

Iraqi Elections

The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) told journalists that the Prime Minister had congratulated the people of Iraq on running a very successful election, and despite it only making page 23 of The Independent, it should be recognised by everybody.

Briefing took place at 6:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

EU Summit

Asked what stage the negotiations had reached so far, and was Britain tabling formal proposals, and also, did those proposals include increased payments by Britain, the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister had met separately Chancellor Merkel, President Chirac, Prime Minister Zapatero, Chancellor Schuessel, and the Hungarian Prime Minister this morning. The Prime Minister was also holding another meeting with Chancellor Merkel and President Chirac this morning, the Foreign Secretary had met others as well. In terms of the plenary, the Prime Minister would use that to update the leaders on where we were, a report-back session.

Briefing took place at 6:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

» Wednesday, December 14, 2005

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

» Tuesday, December 13, 2005

EU Rebate

The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) told journalists that we would be publishing a revised version of our proposals tomorrow morning.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (2)

EU Budget

Asked if the Foreign Secretary would be saying anything on the budget proposals at the Foreign Affairs Select Committe, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said not on any new proposals. They would come tomorrow. The Foreign Secretary would be able to talk to the Select Committee about our approach in general, which he was happy to do. Asked when the next proposal would be presented, the PMOS said we were aiming to publish it on Wednesday.

Asked if putting forward proposals on the eve of talks was a tactic or a sign that things were going wrong, the PMOS said it was neither. It was a reflection of what was normal practice for negotiations of this sort. It was in line entirely with how the EU had approached these matters in the past. The presidency in Luxemburg's case had six negotiating boxes. If we had two that was an indication of the reverse of what was suggested. It remained the case that nobody was going to think that this was their ideal deal. But what we hoped was that people would recognise that it was the only realistic deal that could be on offer now. In terms of the accession countries it was important that they got access to their money now not at some theoretical point down the line.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Read whole briefing | Comments (0)

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