EU parliament chiefs hit out at 'selfish' Britain

13th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

European Parliament chiefs on Tuesday hit out at Britain's "selfish" EU treaty veto, which the conservatives' group leader said should trigger a rethink on Britain's EU rebate.

Frenchman Joseph Daul, who heads the European Peoples' Party that groups centre-right parties, and from which British Prime Minister David Cameron's party chose to split, told a debate in Strasbourg that "the British rebate should be looked at again."

Daul said EU solidarity should not be a "one-way street," adding that it was "time to make the coalition led by David Cameron understand this."

The so-called "Thatcher rebate," won by ex-premier Margaret Thatcher in 1984, returns billions of euros annually to Britain in place of farm payments to France and Germany.

British Treasury figures put its 2010 rebate at 3.1 billion pounds ($5 billion, 3.4 billion euros) and about 26 billion pounds for the 2007-2013 budget cycle as a whole.

Former Belgian premier Guy Verhofstadt said Cameron's decision to veto EU treaty changes aimed at closer fiscal and economic integration would soon come to be seen as "the mistake of his life," the Liberals leader said.

Arguing that if Cameron really wanted protection from a raft of EU regulatory moves being brought against derivatives and other trading on high-volume markets in Britain, Verhofstadt said "in politics there is one golden rule -- you don't quit the negotiating table unless you're sure you won't end up alone."

German Socialists' leader Martin Schulz suggested Britain was in sway to City of London speculators, but eurosceptic leader Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party said the return of Brussels regulation with a vengeance would soon allow a "great escape" from the EU for the governments in England and an unhappy Scotland.

© 2011 AFP

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