Thursday, December 15, 2005

Let battle begin

The "colleagues" – aka the European Council - have safely arrived in Brussels for the ritual debagging on Blair, that man having developed a sense of understatement, stating that budget was "in the balance".

Reuters, amongst others, have been reporting that France and Poland have been urging Britain "to make bigger sacrifices" on the budget, which is something of a cheek on their part, as they are not asking Britain, but Tony Blair. It would be rather different if they were putting the issue to the electorate.

Chirac managed a pre-Council discussion with Blair – he of the fixed grin – when he insisted that the rebate must be permanently changed so it did not apply to enlargement costs except for agriculture, while El Presidente Barroso warned that the EU's image was at stake, telling reporters that, "It's about coherence and credibility." And we thought it was about money.

Josep Borrell, the Spanish socialist head of the EU Parliament reminded Blair that any agreement needed the parliament’s approval, telling him, "Please don't reach an agreement that we cannot accept. Don't do that. Because if you do that, we will not have a financial perspective in any case."

However Polish prime minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz told reporters in Brussels that he had a "good feeling" Britain would relent. "I think countries are starting to look in the same direction, and the direction is the idea of solidarity."

His Danish counterpart, Anders Fogh Rasmussen was also confident. "I have a sense that we can reach a budget deal," he said in a statement issued after the talks started. "I believe that most have realised that the alternative is worse." Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom others tip to emerge as a possible honest broker in talks, said: "We will not accept a deal at any price."

So there you are… let battle begin.


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