Barroso seeks cut in Britain's EU rebate

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The Independent Online

The President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, has joined calls for cuts to Britain's £3bn EU rebate.

The President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, has joined calls for cuts to Britain's £3bn EU rebate.

Speaking after talks with Tony Blair at Chequers yesterday, he backed reform of the rebate, arguing that Britain was now more prosperous than it was 20 years ago when Margaret Thatcher negotiated the deal.

Mr Barroso said: "When the UK got the rebate there were good reasons for it, but the situation has now changed. The UK taxpayer will understand if people have the courage to explain to them that it is not fair for countries such as Bulgaria or Romania to pay more than them.''

He added: ''We are looking for a compromise that is of course acceptable to meet British concerns and at the same time takes note of the evolution of Europe and the evolution of Britain.''

Mr Blair insists the rebate is still justifiable and has vowed to use Britain's veto to prevent the rebate being removed. A Downing Street spokeswoman said that the rebate was mentioned ''in general terms only''.

Dr Liam Fox, the shadow Foreign Secretary, said: ''There must be no question of any change to the rebate. The Prime Minister should never have let this come on to the agenda. The rebate was hard-won by Margaret Thatcher and saves British taxpayers billions of pounds a year.''

Mr Barroso also said he believed that a rejection of the European constitution in the French and Dutch referendums would be ''a failure for Europe''.

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