Riled by a retreat on the rebate

“THE UK rebate will remain and we will not negotiate it away. Period.”That was the Prime Minister's emphatic and unequivocal reply to Chelmsford West MP Simon Burns on June 8 during exchanges in the Commons when Mr Burns asked if our annual rebate from the European Union budget was negotiable.

“THE UK rebate will remain and we will not negotiate it away. Period.”

That was the Prime Minister's emphatic and unequivocal reply to Chelmsford West MP Simon Burns on June 8 during exchanges in the Commons when Mr Burns asked if our annual rebate from the European Union budget was negotiable.

Mr Burns is not noted for being a Tory anti-European head banger so when he said yesterday “I can understand why so many people are disillusioned with the EU when the Prime Minister is prepared to sell us down the river to France for nothing,” it just shows how much anger the Blair retreat has created back home.

After 17 hours of fraught negotiations between European leaders in Brussels, the Prime Minister - who holds the EU presidency until the end of the year - announced a deal. He agreed to cut the rebate negotiated by Mrs Thatcher in 1984 to £7.2 billion - and to increase the overall EU 2007-2013 budget which will cost Britain another £1 billion.


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But he failed to persuade France or other nations that benefit from generous farm payments - the reason behind the rebate - to agree to reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy.

In the Commons yesterday, Mr Blair said the budget he negotiated in Brussels showed “this country can be proud of the part we have played in the enlargement of the European Union.”

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He said there was a “fundamental need” for the reform of the European budget on the basis of everyone paying their fair share of enlargement. And he insisted that “overall the rebate will get us around 41 billion euros (£27.87bn) back in the next budget period, substantially more than in this budget period.”

Mr Blair insisted the deal would enhance Britain's reputation in Europe and failing to get it would have caused “immense damage” to the UK's national interest. Mind you, his Chancellor is said to be seething. It's Gordon Brown who'll have to pick up the tab to enhance Mr Blair's - sorry, Britain's - reputation.

Not surprisingly, the deal has upset the UK Independence Party, which wants Britain to pull out of the EU. Jeffrey Titford, the party's President and an East of England Euro MP, fumed: “It is easy to make a deal when you simply open your cheque-book and say: 'how much?' The British people will have to bankroll this thoroughly disreputable deal.

“It is they who will have to continue to subsidise subway systems in Poland and new roads in Slovakia. Mr Blair's astonishing largesse with taxpayer's money comes at a time when the infrastructure in our own country is breaking down.”

The only person I could find in the East of England who thinks that the Prime Minister has returned a hero is Labour Euro MP Richard Howitt. In a bullish media release, he says the region has benefited from more than £½billion in European cash and allied to that “we must consider the huge advantages of EU membership in terms of economic stability, trade and inward investment.

“The question about the rebate is not whether we will lose it but how much it will increase by. It is only fair that we contribute at the equivalent level as other states such as France and Italy.”

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