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Blair squares up for a fight with EU 'weaklings.'


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Blair squares up for a fight with old Europe 'weaklings'

June 11, 2005

By Anthony Browne and Rory Watson

The Times


GERHARD SCHRÖDER, the German Chancellor, calls it national selfishness. President Chirac of France demands that Britain give it up as an act of European solidarity.

The £3 billion British rebate from the EU, or cheque Britannique, is not just a convenient distraction from the French inspired constitutional crisis. It is a perpetual sore in Britain’s relationship with Europe. Most of the 24 other member states contribute to it. All want to abolish it. Britain retains a veto.

Many EU countries believe that the rebate graduated from being merely unjustified to morally indefensible when several poor Eastern European countries joined the EU last year. Lithuania, Slovakia and Poland have a fraction of Britain’s wealth, but help to finance it every year. Although Britain championed enlargement, the rebate means that Britain is paying only a small share of its costs.

The rebate is absurd, but it is no more so than the EU budget. In the topsy-turvy world of EU finances, it takes an absurdity to rectify the absurdity of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The CAP kills one person in the developing world every 13 seconds

The battle for the rebate began in 1979 after Mrs Thatcher came to power. The Government’s case was simple. The UK was the third-poorest member of the nine-strong European Community, yet its net financial contribution was 40 per cent more than Germany’s.

Mrs Thatcher started demanding “I want my money back” in 1979. At the 1984 Fontainebleau summit she won a refund of two thirds of Britain’s net contribution, the difference between what it pays in and gets back in subsidies. That formula has saved Britain a total of £52 billion.

Today Britain is one of the richest EU member states (after Luxembourg, Ireland and Holland), but the original imbalances in the EU budget remain.

The CAP, which accounts for nearly half the EU budget, funnels taxpayers’ money from across the continent to French farmers. In 2003 France received more than €10 billion (£6.7 billion) from the scheme, and Spain and Germany €6 billion, while Britain recieved only €4 billion. At €68 per citizen per year, Britain receives less from the CAP than any other EU country.

Just as poor Eastern European countries are subsidising the British rebate, they also help to finance the subsidies given to French farmers. British officials call that a moral outrage.

The EU’s second biggest item of expenditure is structural funds, or development money for poor regions. Almost the entire budget is mopped up by Spain, Italy, Portugal and Germany. Again Britain lags far behind, receiving less even than Greece, which has a sixth the British population.

Overall Britain gets less money per person from EU policies than any other country. Without the rebate it would be the biggest single net contributor.Were it not for the British rebate France would pay no money into the EU, despite being one of the richest countries.

Even after the rebate, Britain still paid two and a half times more between 1995 and 2002 than France or Italy, which have similar population and wealth. Without the rebate Britain would have paid 14 times more than France and 10 times more than Italy.

CAP reforms mean that it no longer subsidises farmers for producing food, and now pays them just for owning land. The reforms merely entrenched the imbalance in France’s favour. In 2001 M Chirac and Herr Schröder agreed privately to fix CAP subsidies at current levels until 2013, then informed an irate Tony Blair of the decision.

Britain insists that as long as the absurdity of CAP funnelling EU taxpayers’ money to French landowners remains, the rebate remains justified


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Brown does a Thatcher

Give him a big hand ... Brown wants to give Chirac the Thatcher treatment

Give him a hand ... Brown wants to give Chirac the Thatcher treatment


GORDON Brown Britains economics chancellor piled into the Anglo-French cash war last night — vowing to give Jacques Chirac a Maggie Thatcher-style “handbagging”.

The Iron Chancellor slammed the arrogant French President who said HIS farmers' cushy EU handouts must not be touched, while demanding an end to OUR £3billion-a-year rebate.

Mr Brown rallied behind Tony Blair as the cross-Channel war turned ugly.

He invoked the name of ex Tory PM Lady T, who won our annual rebate in 1984. She famously waved her handbag at EU chiefs to win back UK taxpayers’ cash.

A breathtaking £4 of every £10 spent by Brussels goes to just 5 per cent of Europe’s 300million population thanks to the crazy Common Agricultural Policy.

Nearly a quarter of the entire CAP budget goes to the mass of French farmers.


But President Chirac refuses to put it up for negotiation.

Mr Brown told the BBC: “Mrs Thatcher would agree with me that the problem that brought into being the British rebate was the huge amount of money spent by the European Union on agriculture.”

“Not only is the rebate justified, but if in the national interest it was necessary to do so, we would use our veto.

“When one country is taking up such a huge share of the budget, then there are bigger issues to discuss before you can reach a settlement.”

In 2003, French farmers shared almost £7billion from the CAP pot. The UK received £2.7billion.

The subsidy hikes prices, putting the equivalent of a 26 per cent tax on food.

It was set up to help farmers after the War, but has since created wine lakes and butter mountains.

Even slavishly-pro European Lord Kinnock admitted: “Chirac playing this diversionary game simply adds to the discredit.”

But last night President Chirac vowed to protect French farmers’ £6.5billion subsidies from Brussels until at least 2013.

Le Worm said in Paris: “Our British friends must be aware of the necessity of a greater fairness in the burden carried by each country.

“But I’m not willing to compromise on the CAP. I hope things are seen the same way by our friends in Britain."

The UK pays nearly THREE TIMES as much as France into EU coffers. But Mr Chirac was supported by Swedish PM Goran Persson. He claimed: “We all are in favour of phasing out the British rebate."

In London, angry Mr Blair insisted he would only debate our rebate if the French pledge to ditch the CAP.

Mr Blair said: “The rebate is there to correct what would otherwise be a quite unfair distribution of money.

“To get a proper deal, you’ve got to look at all the aspects of the budget.”

Why we get cash back

BRITAIN’S rebate was won by Margaret Thatcher at a 1984 summit when she wielded her handbag and said: “I want my money back.”

Q: Why does Britain get it?

A: It compensates us for paying more to the EU than we get back, mainly because we get less from the Common Agricultural Policy.

Q: How much is it worth?

A: It varies from year to year, but it averages out at around £3billion.

Q: Why is it in the news?

A: Britain has to negotiate it in Brussels next week when the EU budget for 2007-13 is discussed.

Q: Why is Tony Blair under pressure to give it up?

A: In 1984 Britain was much poorer and now other EU states pay more to Brussels than they get back.

Q: Is the rebate justified?

A: Yes. With it, the UK still pays 2½ times as much as France. Without it we would pay 15 times as much.

Q: Should other countries get a rebate?

A: The burden on Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden has already been cut — extending the principle of correcting some countries’ higher contributions.

Edited by Blackleaf
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Blackleaf, have you ever considered posting a topic that isn't anti-Europe and just about making you feel like your better than them?

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I don t know what he s complaining about.There is no EU constitution.What else does he want?

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Nothing, he's Europpobic, he just wants to moan and cry about Europeans and their evil conspiracy to take over the world.

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