Saturday, December 17, 2005

Blair saves EU, loses $

A little background first. Back in the 1980s, Britain was paying a disproportionate amount into the EEC. So Maggie went to the Europeans and famously said, "We want our money back." And that return of the money became known as the UK's rebate.

Tony was under pressure during the last round of talks to give up the rebate, but he wasn't prepared to do so until France and other countries made concessions on farming subsidies. But the talks on the budget failed, and this during Tony's Presidency of the EU.

Well, it seems that Blair has gotten a compromise.

Read my thoughts on the subject.

Get the story

The European Union summit ended in the early hours of Saturday morning with a compromise deal on its $1,034 billion budget that left every European leader claiming to have won, even if the British tabloid press savage Tony Blair for giving away $12 billions.
I have bolded that bit, because I can only imagine how he's getting it ... As a matter of fact, let's have a look at the papers. This is just a quick sampling ...

The Sun calls him a loser.
But The Mirror, always a Labour bastion remarks on Tony's courage, and that it may boost his ambitions.
Going back to the other side of the spectrum, the Mail says that Tony is attacked for his stance on the rebate.
The Guardian says the Prime Minister is criticised for giving up the £7 million.
The Telegraph, unsurprisingly, says Blair is attacked over his poor deal for Britain.

So, with the exception of the Mirror, and granted this was just a quick look, it's what I would expect. Britons of all different stripes have been justifiably proud of being able to stand up to Brussels on something, at least. And this will widely be seen, I predict, as a cave in. Now, to be fair, back in June Blair did say that he would be prepared to negotiate the rebate only if farm subsidies and the like were also renegotiated. So, in actuality, Blair got what he wanted. But after being accused in the summer of maintaining "Thatcher's tone" on the rebate, and given his strong assurances to the Commons, it will still be widely perceived as giving in to Europe.

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