Hatchets buried to back deal on jobs and trade: The Brussels Summit
Sunday 12 December 1993
Britain was pushed into a corner by its European partners over Jacques Delors's plan for jobs, and accepted the possibility of large-scale borrowing for Europe-wide initiatives such as high-speed trains and new technology. It also put its name to a common European front that improved the prospects for a Gatt deal in Geneva this week.
The issues at stake throughout two days of tough talks were pulling Europe and the world out of recession, dealing with 17 million jobless and restoring the European Union's credibility. World trade talks, which come to a climax this week, hung over all the discussions.
Internal rows were ultimately set aside in the interests of an agreed line on the new Gatt accord. In a joint statement, the Twelve sought to force Washington's hand on the vexed issue of liberalising trade in films, music and videos. The way is now open to a possible trade-off - the US might be persuaded to leave films out of an overall package in exchange for dropping out maritime services.
French farmers have an implicit commitment from the Union that they will not be required to give away any more land, while Paris has agreed that money for compensation will not be found by raising the Union budget.
'We are delighted with the outcome of this summit. We have mobilised our partners to a declaration of solidarity with the French position. We could not have let Brussels without it,' said the French prime minister, Edouard Balladur. The summit leaders also approved Mr Delors's prescriptions for slashing unemployment, and these will now be turned into a detailed strategy for reviving the European economy. The Commission President was jubilant: 'In nine years I have rarely been so happy,' he said.
The summit's conclusions include a proposal that the EU borrow up to 8bn ecus (about pounds 6bn) a year for public works. Last week the British Government's pronouncements veered between furious condemnation and fulsome praise, but yesterday John Major welcomed the result and the Government emphasised that many of the ideas the plan contains, such as a call to reduce the costs governments impose on employers, reflected Britain's views. Britain fought successfully to remove an employment target from the paper.
Last night the Labour shadow chancellor, Gordon Brown, expressed anger at the Government's stance. 'They seem to be congratulating themselves on the negative blocking of measures that could help create jobs, rather than constructively seeking to stimulate investment. Among the measures they appear to be blocking are proposals that could help speed up the Channel tunnel rail link and make improvements in our water supply.'
Kenneth Clarke had been particularly forthright in his criticisms of the Delors plan, and other delegations reportedly complained about him to Mr Major. Yesterday the Chancellor said he had been misunderstood.
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