Major urged to defy Tory rebels over EC budget

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JOHN MAJOR was urged to defy Conservative rebels by compromising over the scale of the European Community budget and Britain's net contribution by Sir Edward Heath, the former Prime Minister.

Sir Edward warned that the wider goals of the Maastricht treaty could be put at risk if Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, refused to make concessions at the conclave of ministers in Brussels today in the run-up to the Edinburgh summit on Friday.

He told BBC radio: 'Responsibility rests on the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to see we do our share at being prepared to get an agreement. We cannot expect just to sit there and do nothing, and say, 'We are doing nothing but you are to blame because you don't accept that'.'

Sir Edward said Mr Major should be prepared to upset the 'Euro-sceptics' in the Tory party because they were in the minority. He added that there was also a responsibility on Labour to support the Government on the Bill to ratify the Maastricht treaty.

Mr Major underlined his refusal to give way to pressure from EC partners to compromise on the British rebate, which halves Britain's contribution to the EC budget to a net pounds 2bn a year.

As the holder of the EC presidency, Britain has also been negotiating a compromise on the proposals by Jacques Delors, president of the European Commission, for raising the total amount which the EC can spend. But in an article in Newsweek, Mr Major wrote: 'We must resist extravagant notions of future spending. Britain, which is a generous net contributor to the Community, has the right to speak firmly on this - and to maintain the abatement which modestly reduces the disproportionate financing burden we carry.'

Anti-Maastricht Tory MPs, buoyed by the Swiss referendum result, rejecting membership of the proposed European economic area and an opinion poll by Gallup for the BBC saying a majority in Britain wanted a referendum, stepped up their demands for a referendum on the Maastricht treaty. Campaigners are also planning a demonstration in London on 17 January.

EC pressure, page 8

Nothing to fear, page 19