Under a hail of fire from European Parliament critics, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has defended the compromise reached last week among the EU leaders, over the bloc’s future budget. He paid more attention to pro-Europe advocates:
“Let’s be very clear: this is not the ideal budget but this is the best that can be done now, or nearly the best that can be done now. Then let us all together – Commission, Council, Member States, European Parliament – work out how in the next few years we can build the consensus for a changed and reformed Europe in which the budget is a rational part of that future, not an unfortunate piece of horse trading!”
Among the Eurosceptic critics in the assembly was British conservative Roger Helmer, who is not attached to any particular group:
“Britain’s favourite newspaper, The Sun, says Tony Blair is to surrender billions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash and get nothing in return. In its editorial on December 1st, it says this is treachery. ‘Treachery’, Prime Minister: not a nice word, not my word, the Sun’s word. But I and millions of the Sun’s readers agree.”
“Let me just tell you, Sir, and your colleagues. You sit with our country’s flag; you do not represent our country’s interests. And when you and your colleagues say “What do we get?” in return for what we contribute to enlargement, I’ll tell you what we get: we get a Europe that is unified after years of dictatorship in the East, we get economic development in countries we have championed, we get a future reform that allows us once and for all to put an end to discussion about rebates, Common Agriculture Policy, and get a proper reformed budget for Europe: that’s what we get, if we have the vision to seize that opportunity.”
Saturday’s budget deal, which Parliament still has the power to reject, came after Blair yielded to demands for cuts to Britain’s 21-year-old rebate.