Tuesday, November 22, 2005


We covered it last night - the EU budget meeting in Brussels - when it was predicted that it would be a waste of time. And despite the burbling of the Today programme this morning, about what great things Jack Straw would do, that is precisely what it turned out to be – in spades.

But what is different this time is the candour with which the other member states are expressing themselves - none of your carefully crafted diplomacy here.

Belgian foreign minister, Karel de Gucht, set the tone, saying: "We are sitting here wasting our time." Finnish foreign minister, Erkii Tuomioja, told Mr Straw: "As there is nothing new to discuss, I have nothing new to say," and French foreign minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, warned the UK presidency that there was a "general feeling of concern" over the lack of progress.

Little Straw was left bleating that the British position on the rebate was justified and Europe minister, Douglas Alexander, told the talks that the rebate was "an enduring British reality".

It is an odd thing that, for a "dead end" we use a French phrase that the French themselves don't use – cul de sac. They use the word impasse. And that is just what it is.


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