Blair rejects EU rebate freeze

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair today turned down flat a formal proposal from the Luxembourg presidency of the EU to freeze Britain's European rebate between 2007 and 2013.

Tony Blair today turned down flat a formal proposal from the Luxembourg presidency of the EU to freeze Britain's European rebate between 2007 and 2013.

It would have cost the country between 25 and 30 billion euros (£16.8 billion-£20.1 billion), Downing Street said.

The proposal was made by Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker in talks in Luxembourg this morning during Mr Blair's hectic diplomatic shuttle mission ahead of this week's crunch EU summit.

No 10 revealed details of the discussion as the Prime Minister headed for Paris for talks with French President Jacques Chirac.

Mr Blair's official spokesman told reporters travelling with the Premier: "The position is, today was the first real head-to-head discussion of the actual figures.

"What the presidency are proposing is a freeze of the rebate. There seems to be agreement between us and the presidency that between 2007 and 2013 - ie seven years - the cumulative cost of that to us would be losing out 25-30 billion euros."

The spokesman went on: "We would still be paying one-third more therefore in that period than France, for instance.

"That is not acceptable to us and we have told the presidency so.

"That's the current state of play. We have said that to the presidency and they are continuing their discussions.

"We do not believe we are the only country that has problems with the current proposals but it's for others to speak for themselves."

The spokesman went on: "We, of course - as the Prime Minister has done in public - continued to argue that there has to be a wider review because even with this proposal, not only do we lose out to up to 30 billion euros, we still have a very distorted budget.

"We believe the issue of a wider review is one that's now on the agenda. How that becomes a reality is something the presidency has to reflect on."

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