» Thursday, July 8, 2004


Asked the Prime Minister’s reaction to the European Commission’s proposal to end the UK’s budget rebate, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that since the Commission had yet to publish its proposal, it would not be helpful to comment on it directly. That said, while it was clear that the UK had grown more prosperous over the last ten years or so, we continued to believe that the rebate was fully justifiable because distortions in expenditure – as a result of policies, such as CAP – still remained. Moreover, under the terms of the EU Treaty, any change to the rebate would have to be passed unanimously. This meant that it would give us the chance to veto any proposal to end the scheme. Asked if he was indicating that any changes which were made to the CAP would open up discussions on the rebate, the PMOS pointed out this was a eighteen-month process in any event. He repeated that our position on the rebate had not changed. Pressed as to whether the position might change in the future should changes be made to the policy on CAP, the PMOS said he did not think it would be helpful to get drawn into a discussion about hypothetical scenarios. He repeated that our position had not changed.

Asked if he would acknowledge that the recent changes to the EU had necessitated a change to the twenty-year old rebate scheme, the PMOS cautioned journalists against getting too far ahead of themselves. It was important for people to be a little patient and wait and see what the Commission would actually propose. He underlined that our position on the rebate, as spelled out in the Treaty negotiations, had not changed. Asked if that meant it was non-negotiable, the PMOS repeated that the position had not changed. Asked to clarify what our position actually was, the PMOS said we believed that the rebate was fully justifiable because of the reasons spelled out in the Treaty negotiations. Asked if the Prime Minister was concerned that the issue was back on the political agenda, the PMOS said the Prime Minister believed that all twenty-five European leaders around the table during the Treaty negotiations had been very well aware of our position. As members of the EU, countries were entitled to do whatever they wanted. However, our position was clear. Asked if it was fair to say that while the rebate itself was not negotiable, the amount it was worth was, the PMOS said he had no intention of getting drawn into a hypothetical discussion. We could talk about the issue once the Commission had published its proposal. He also suggested that journalists were wasting their energy by getting into a lather about something which did not actually have to be decided until eighteen months’ time. Asked if Downing Street agreed with the Treasury’s position that the rebate was ‘not up for re-negotiation’, the PMOS said that the Government had stated its position. It had not changed.

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

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