Perhaps better said, the crisis deepens. Jaques Chirac started things off:
“The time has come for our British friends to understand that they must now make a gesture of solidarity”
and Tony Blair, of course, rose to the bait:
“Britain has been making a gesture, because over the past 10 years, even with the British rebate, we have been making a contribution into Europe two and half times that of France.”
“Without the rebate, it would have been 15 times as much as France. That is our gesture,”
It doesn’t look like there’s too much understanding going on here. Then there’s the nub of the matter.
According to Blair, the reason the rebate exists is because otherwise there would be a ‘quite unfair’ proportion of British contribution and:
“The reason for the unfairness is because the spending of Europe is so geared to the Common Agricultural Policy. My view is that if we want a debate on future financing, one part of that has got to be what Europe needs to spend its money on to prepare Europe for the 21st Century, which is not the same as Europe 30 or 40 years ago.”
I think at this stage it is really hard to say how this will work out at the summit. At this moment in time there seems to be little love lost between the French President and his ‘British friends’. Of course a lot of this could change when they get down to the negotiating table, but at this moment in time it isn’t easy to see how.