Friday

20th Sep 2019

Britain agrees to cut EU rebate without farm reform

UK prime minister Tony Blair has signalled London will agree to cut its rebate from the EU budget, without a link to common agricultural policy (CAP) reform but through excluding new member states from contributions to the "British cheque."

In return, the poor states from central and eastern Europe would have to accept lower structural funds from EU coffers, under the emerging British proposal.

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  • The UK presidency wants to sacrifice part of the British rebate in return for smaller overall EU spending (Photo: Council of the European Union)

"If we cannot get a large deal which alters fundamentally the way the budget is spent, then...we will have to have a smaller EU budget", Mr Blair said last night in Tallinn after meeting with the leaders of the Baltic states.

London had, until now, insisted that a complex reform of EU spending, mainly on farm subsidies, is needed if the UK is to give up the rebate, which was negotiated in 1984 by Margaret Thatcher.

However, with France unlikely to agree on any farm cuts at the December summit, UK officials have revealed they will offer to freeze the UK's €5.6 billion annual rebate at something close to the current level.

The solution is similar to one which London rejected in June, but the proposed British rebate cuts are less severe.

The offer has not received much support from Baltic leaders, though, with Estonian prime minister Andrus Ansip describing it as unacceptable.

EU budget commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite commented "Should the scenarios circulating today become reality, this is a short-sighted budget on the political level, installing a regime of two speeds dividing Europe even more", according to Le Figaro.

The budgetary blueprint is also likely to face criticism from British conservatives, with the party's Europe spokesman Graham Brady arguing the UK's bid was "a surrender", the BBC reported.

The British prime minister is meeting the Visegrad country leaders from Poland, the Czech republic, Slovakia and Hungary on Friday (2 December), in a bid to gather support for his deal.

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