UK takes new tack on budget fight with France

22nd November 2005, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Nov 22 (AFP) - British finance minister Gordon Brown warned France that it must agree to reform of the EU's farm subsidies to seal an EU budget deal and help the world's poor, the Financial Times newspaper said Tuesday.

LONDON, Nov 22 (AFP) - British finance minister Gordon Brown warned France that it must agree to reform of the EU's farm subsidies to seal an EU budget deal and help the world's poor, the Financial Times newspaper said Tuesday.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Brown said Britain would fight for "ambitious agricultural reform" at a meeting of European Union leaders in mid-December, with the 25-member bloc's budget topping the agenda.

The Guardian newspaper called it "a strong attack on France" while The Daily Telegraph said Brown was "quite right".

The EU faces a tough task to agree its 2007-2013 budget at the crunch summit next month.

An agreement is blocked on Britain's refusal to surrender its 4.6-billion-euro rebate without reform of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy farm subsidies, and French resistance to overhauling the CAP, of which it is a major beneficiary.

In Brussels on Monday, Britain rebuffed increasingly desperate appeals from its EU partners -- with some "almost on their knees" for London to back down on the rebate, according to French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy.

Britain assumed the European Union's six-month rotating presidency in July and is the 2005 president of the Group of Eight leading industrial powers.

It has made African development one of the key themes of its presidencies.

Brown said it was essential for the EU, the United States and the world's emerging economies to smash the deadlock ahead of the World Trade Organisation summit in Hong Kong on December 13-18.

The 148-member gathering seeks to dismantle international trade barriers.

He told an FT awards bash in central London on Monday night: "Failing to break the deadlock (over tariffs) will mean a huge price -- for reform of Europe, for prices, for consumers, for our competitiveness, and for the worlds poor, whose interests we have said we have put on the agenda in our presidency of the G8 and EU.

"It is simply wrong to say that tariffs are essential to advanced industrial societies and wrong to say that big cuts in farming tariffs would not help a solution to poverty."

The chancellor sought to keep the spotlight on what he sees as French intransigence blocking a wider deal, the FT said.

Brown reckoned progress on CAP reform and tariff reduction would set a path that would make an agreement on future EU financing more likely.

In an editorial, The Daily Telegraph said recent Foreign Office hints suggested British prime minister Tony Blair was considering surrendering the rebate without CAP reform, "desperate to get something -- anything -- out of his EU presidency".

Blair "should not buy foreign acclamation and a sense of accomplishment at the expense of British taxpayers and African farmers -- even for the sake of his presidency.

"Let it fail."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article