Busy again today, so light/nonexistent blogging, I’m afraid. But I really ought to provide some info on the latest rebate spat.
As the rebate’s based on regional spending, it fluctuates from year to year. It’s currently worth about ï¿½5bn a year, but is expected to rise to ï¿½7bn. On those projections, Blair’s current offer could see the amount Britain receives back drop by ï¿½1.5bn a year – in fact, still a net rise of ï¿½0.5bn, so not really that much of a concession. All he’s really doing is refusing the offer of even MORE returned cash (which could be worth about ï¿½9bn to ï¿½10.5bn in the 2007-13 budget period if he took it up).
In other words, Blair’s in a lose-lose situation again. UK critics will be able to accuse him of surrendering to the French, and giving away the one thing which keeps EU-sceptics moderately OK with the whole British contributions to the EU thing. Critics on the continent, meanwhile – doubtless led by France – will be able to point out that he’s only giving up money on paper, not in reality, and that the rebate will continue to rise.
NOTE: All figures above taken from EU Politix.com – other estimates vary.
Some other views and more info:
The Financial Times reckons (and they know more about this kind of thing than me) that
“the move could mean that Britain has to make an additional net contribution to the EU budget of between ï¿½6bn and ï¿½7bn over the EU budget period from 2007 to 2013…
“British officials have long acknowledged that, without the concession over funding for eastern Europe, there can be no hope of achieving an EU budget deal.
“This is because failure to adjust the mechanism by which the rebate is calculated would leave Britainï¿½s net contribution to the EU budget at 0.23 per cent of gross national income, while Franceï¿½s contribution would stand at 0.4 per cent.”
“The best [Blair] can now hope for in Brussels next month is agreement to a review of subsidies in 2008…
“Downing Street knows it has to give ground because the enlargement of the EU means that the rebate will dramatically increase if no changes are made.”
The Times:”In a move to get a December deal, however, Jack Straw will accept on Monday that if the rebate is retained virtually intact the budget system will become gradually too favourable to Britain and by the end of the next budget period, 2013, this country will be the second-smallest net contributor after Cyprus.”
Le Monde: “The initial British plans caused a flurry of negative reactions in the new Member States, which were – until now – allies of Great Britain because of its more liberal, Atlanticist positions.”
Another quote from the same article from “an Eastern European Diplomat”: “By lowering the budget in this way, the British buy the silence of the rich countries and turn to blackmail with the poorest countries… They are using divide and rule as in the good old days of colonialism: it is very shocking.”
Finally, I unusually find myself agreeing almost entirely with soon to be ex-Tory leader Michael Howard, quoted by the BBC:
“We are not going to get fundamental reform of the EU budget in the last days that remain of the British presidency.
“We should have been talking about what we want the EU to do, about what the EU is for, and once you have decided what it should do and what it is for, then what it should cost and how you pay for its costs follow naturally from that decision.
“We never had the slightest attempt from the British government to take part in that debate or lead that debate and that’s why we are in the mess that we are.”