De Villepin calls UK rebaterelic of 'ancien regime'

21st June 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 21 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin kept up the war of words with Britain on Tuesday following the collapse of the Brussels summit, describing its annual rebate from the European Union as a relic of the "ancien regime."

PARIS, June 21 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin kept up the war of words with Britain on Tuesday following the collapse of the Brussels summit, describing its annual rebate from the European Union as a relic of the "ancien regime."

"The British cheque is ... a legacy of the past, an antiquated legacy, no longer with any purpose," he told deputies in the National Assembly.

"This British cheque -- and I say it with all the friendship that I bear for the British people -- is a veritable expense from the ancien regime," he said.

Last week's EU summit broke up in acrimony after British Prime Minister Tony Blair refused to renegotiate the EUR 4.5 billion rebate unless France also agreed to changes in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which consumes 40 percent of the EU's budget.

Reiterating France's refusal to touch the CAP, Villepin said it was a "major asset for Europe and for France."

Won in 1984 by former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the rebate is meant to compensate for the EU's disproportionate spending on farms from which Britain draws little benefit.

France is backed by most other member countries when it argues that Britain is now a richer country and should make a greater contribution to the poor accession states of eastern Europe.

Blair has stated that the rebate can indeed be reduced, but only in the context of larger budget reform.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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