Should the UK give up its refund? Or are British politicians right to be cautious over calls to abolish the rebate?
France says the UK is undermining European solidarity by refusing to give ground on its £3bn EU budget rebate.
Speaking after talks with French president Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair has said he can not see how differences over the rebate can be bridged.
Does Europe need to review its economic system? What would make it fairer? Send us your suggestions and views.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
Blair is playing a dangerous game by putting the rebate up against reform of the CAP. If the entire budget is renegotiated then Britain loses its veto on the rebate, and then the French/German axis can renegotiate the budget again to the detriment of the UK. Leave well alone!
Keith Mansfield, London, UK
Both Chirac and Schroeder are on their way out of power and the reason why they are making such a fuss about the rebate is because they want to distract from the fact that the UK economy has been doing exceptionally well in the past few years. It's so much easier to say "ah, but the UK had the rebate" than "our policies, and that includes the introduction of the Euro, are to blame for the economic decline". So, I don't think Tony Blair should be discussing this at this time, even if the rebate was unfair, he should refuse to play the little political game of Chirac and Schroeder.
Andres Kruse, London, UK
Coming just after the French 'No' votes, and from the country that refuses point blank to discuss CAP reformation? I don't think so. Blair is right (for once), we should only give it up as part of a thorough review of the EU's finances, especially CAP.
Alan Green, Reading, Berks
We should not give up our right of rebate. The French are trying to make a complicated matter simplistic to divert peoples' attention from their own failings. When we can buy raw materials at the prices they should be and not the inflated prices subjected, then and only then should we consider this action
Lisa, United Kingdom
The CAP has only just been reformed. It shouldn't be re-opened again. How can farmers plan?
Joe McDonald, Belfast
The rebate issue is not only a pretext used by Chirac, it is a real problem, and the eastern countries (and all the 24 partners of the UK) insist the amount should be updated. Most people on this site seem to ignore the consequences of the enlargement. Maybe the CAP favours France, but this rebate favours the UK at the cost of much poorer countries. It must be updated, not abolished.
Jean-Paul, Paris, France
Definitely not. At least not until there is a rationalisation of EU spending which must include a thorough revision of the CAP. The vibrant members of the EU must not let themselves be held back by the outdated thinking of a French president who, in my view, should have resigned after the referendum.
Richard M, Ottignies, Belgium
Is there anybody around who can convince me that we should still be involved in the EU any more? From the crazy waste of billions moving to Strasbourg and back, to the subsidising of French farmers while farmers in poor countries struggle. In my view, the whole EU is a farce and I agree with our Belgian friend below; lets get out of the EU altogether and leave them to it.
Michael Gore, Wigan, UK
The UK shouldn't have a rebate; it shouldn't need a rebate because it should only have to pay a reasonable amount in the first place. Keeping the rebate isn't the answer, re-adjusting the amount it has to pay to something sane is.
Sean, Duesseldorf, Germany
The rebate must be renegotiated. It was set in a time where both Germany and France where in complete different economic situations. However, if the rebate for the UK is reviewed so must other expenditure and rebates.
Pilar Thompson, Italy
With the current situation in Europe this is just another nail in the EU coffin. There will never be total agreement in the EU with what money goes where, and with the new poorer members coming in to the EU, it will only bleed the EU funds more. So PM it is time for us to stand up and say no and reduce our funding of the EU
Even though I am French, I agree that there is no reason why Britain should give up the rebate, while Chirac refuses to negotiate on agricultural spending. Tony Blair is quite right when he says that if the rebate is to be discussed, so should the CAP. Chirac is just trying to win back the farmers' vote, which he completely lost over the past few years, by taking a position, which knows is both unfair and indefensible.
Michel, Strasbourg, France
The British rebate is untenable given the nation's current prosperity, however Chirac wants to score political points at home by portraying a hard line on the issue. The reality is that the CAP policies are equally untenable and these should be re-evaluated at the same time as the British rebate.
Damian Johnson, Hull
The idea that the British taxpayer should be asked to contribute even more to the funding of the EU is laughable. It shouldn't even be considered for serious discussion. We don't need the EU constitution; we don't need the Euro; we don't need the EU. Period.
Mark Brentwood, UK
It's funny that despite Tony Blair's efforts to be at the heart of Europe - France and Germany seem to want to keep the UK in its place - at the fringe.
Peter, Poole UK
The UK should not only retain its rebate, we also should refuse to pay any more money into the EU until all the funds that are unaccounted for are found and the accounts are approved.
David Leask, Shrewsbury UK
I agree with the contributor from France when he said that it is hard to believe that the UK is so rich when there are so many poor people including pensioners. I say take the rebate and use it to help many of our pensioners out of the poverty trap so they can enjoy retirement like the French and Germans, and probably many other Europeans!
Joyce Taylor, Knutsford, UK
No. We should not be penalised for running a productive economy. Other EU countries should make their economies more efficient and not break EU budget requirements i.e. Germany and France.
Barrie Noble, Solihull, England
We should leave the EU and leave all its expensive, bureaucratic nonsense. I can't believe we would be worse off outside the 'European Club' - after Norway and Switzerland haven't disappeared into oblivion yet!
Let's just leave, stay in the free trade area, fund our farms, keep our fishing, lose the bureaucracy and see our economy swell and standard of living rise for the ordinary man. We sacrifice our tax to this daft European dream.
Phil E, Barnet
Maybe Germany should be offered a rebate to even up the contributions between themselves, UK and France. That would also force a rethink on EU finances. But while the CAP continues to reward agricultural mediocrity, the UK keeps its rebate.
Graham, Yeovil, UK
For once I agree with Blair, reform all or nothing. It is interesting that Chirac is insisting that the French CAP subsidies are not negotiable and yet expects the British rebate to be.
Dave, Cambridge UK
The EU is floundering. Bureaucratic nonsense such as this will be the end of it.
Ashley Penney, Milton Keynes, UK
Politicians, seeing a failure and unpopularity in their own back yard, shouting look over there it must be their fault because I am blameless. It's all just smoke and mirrors. We (Europe) must be competitive not only within or even in the West but in a global context. Stop squabbling and get on with delivering the initial promise of providing a trading unit able to trade on the world stage.
Trevor Stone, Bristol, England
I thought the rebates are more for the poor rather than the rich? I think President Chirac is unhappy that UK gets its rebates as their economy fumbles along. Maybe Mr Blair should use the rebates on Africa since that is his focus right now.
I do not think the UK should give up the EU rebate as there needs to be a full review of how Europe spends it money.
Barbara Hartshorn, Farnborough, Hants
Well done Mr Blair. He is fully justified to make a stand on this issue. The French have been getting away with matters for too long and have not only made the EU inefficient but have made unjust trade policies which keep Third World countries poor by subsidising French farmers. If Mr Blair succeeds (and I hope he does) he will have killed two birds with one stone, EU finances and world trade injustice. We should all support him in his noble effort and willing give up the British refund if the French play fair. Here's hoping.
John K, UK
To: Dr Nikolaos Antoniou, Brussels, Belgium. I totally agree, but for different reasons I suspect. The politicians of this country don't have the guts to put the question of continued membership of the EU to the people, because if they did, we would be leaving it...and join the other poor countries not in the EU such as Switzerland and Norway.
Malcolm, MK, UK
A fundamental rethink of the finances of EU would be good. Why pay more in order to get some back? Best not pay so much in the first place. It needs tidying up. Whilst the rebate is economically useful, the anomaly that it creates makes it look as if we're a hard-up state getting charity. Better to pay a just amount in the first case. Margaret Thatcher only got to first base!
Bos Menzies, Stanmore UK
Support should be given to the poorer, new members but the Common Agricultural Policy is long overdue radical reform.
Graham Thompson, Cirencester
Any review would need to be linked to GDP. There could be subsidies for the speed and efficiency of compliance with carrying out any new EU laws or legislation. As we are the most compliant and pro-active nation in this respect, we would be duly "rewarded" for our efforts.
Leonard McCullie, Perth Scotland
Solidarity is a fine thing as long as there is some balance in payments a country makes and the subsidies another one receives. Besides that the EU needs to review its spending. First of all make and end to the moving to and from Strasbourg and end all farm subsidies. Besides that the question should not be if Britain has to give up its rebate, but what the maximum net amount per head is a country should pay.
Jos, Huizen, NL
One day, Blair says "no way - the rebate stays". Now he says "Well it might be open for discussion if everyone else gives up some as well". Pick one or the other Tony!
David, Dunlop, Ayrshire
This has little or nothing to do with the rebate. The question is a very useful tool by which France can avoid discussion of its referendum result at next weeks EU meeting. As such, President Chirac has conducted a nice piece of political manoeuvring. It's also possible that Tony Blair is not that bothered either, given that he doesn't want to discuss the failed referendum either. A 'no contest' bit of politics by both of them. Quite clever really.
Nick Greenacre, Cobham, UK
I think we should retain the rebate until a full and transparent review of the EU finances is completed. This should include a table of all contributors detailing the amount contributed along with the amount withdrawn and then compare these to their respective populations and GDP.
Gareth Kimbrey, Dorchester, Dorset
Whatever the UK does it will always bear the brunt of scathing remarks from France and Germany. I find it amusing that since the constitution was thrown out by France, the issue on the UK's rebate has gained unbelievable momentum, mostly fuelled by the French. Reading the French newspapers, I also found it interesting to note that Le Monde has implied the constitution is being held up by the UK!
Luke Talbot, Southampton, UK (Ex France)
No, it shouldn't! And as far as the poorer nations of the EU are concerned, neither I, nor anyone that I know, are working our socks off to impoverish ourselves to raise the standard of living of the rest of Europe. Selfish? I'm past caring. I'm also tired of stoking the gravy-train for a lot of useless politicians.
Barry, Deeping St James, UK
The EU is currently spending 46 billion euros on subsidising European farmers - that is approx half the EU Budget, and another 800 million euro is spent on Pensions for the MPs. There are far larger issues to resolve than the UK rebate. Instead of a vote on the EU constitution, we hold a vote on EU Membership.
Mark Field, Coventry, UK
Reducing European farm subsidies would do as much for Africa as ten Live8 concerts. The rebate would be worth giving up if we could achieve that.
Rob Shaw, Leeds, UK
You must remember that the EU was invented by the French for the French and is designed to help nobody else except the French.
Simon, London, UK
The rebate is 20 years old, it should be at least double with inflation alone. Be bold Tony, demand more not less!
Paul, London, UK
Only Jacques Chirac could call an arrangement whereby one side gives up everything and the other gives up nothing a "compromise". This is characteristically naked hypocrisy and should be resisted at all costs. It is also very clever politics as it allows Jacques Chirac to divert attention from his political humiliation over the constitutional referendum. Hopefully Tony Blair will recognise that the loudest voices in this debate belong to the political "busted-flush" of the French President and German Chancellor and simply hold out for a wholesale redesign of the budgetary contribution process to allow a genuinely fair system to emerge.
David, UK (currently Netherlands)
I find it ironic that Luxembourg, currently holding the presidency of the EU, calls upon the UK to give up its rebate. Luxembourg has the highest GDP per head of population in the world. But, according to the latest figures available, they received half a billion pounds more from the EU budget than they paid in. So if Luxembourg and France are so concerned about fairness and EU solidarity maybe they would like to make the first move. I'm with you Tony.
Wayne, Brighton, UK
As a life-long European I find it sad to be agreeing with the Euro-sceptics. France seems to regard Europe as an instrument of its own self-aggrandizement. It has tried to foist a tax system on Eastern Europe which would destroy their current competitive advantage, openly showed its contempt for new members over the Iraq war, blocked Britain's entry into the EEC despite Britain's critical role in liberating it and creams off vast sums of money out of CAP a clearly outdated scheme. Should Britain give up its rebate? Probably, but only when Europe properly reforms its financial arrangement in a way that benefits all members not just the interests of one founder member.
Richard, Oxford, UK
After having lived in France I know very well that when somebody calls for 'solidarity', it is because they want something. Well, if the French believe that large subsidies for farmers are important, let them pay for them with their own money. That way they can show a bit of 'solidarity' to their fellow countrymen, and then we can discuss how much money we all pay into the system.
The British agricultural policy is based on destroying their own food and farming industries and importing all their food. That is why they do not qualify for payments from the CAP. The British are totally out of step. They are borrowing to buy food whilst claiming their agricultural policy is sustainable. How can you plan to live by borrowing for ever and still claim sustainability?
John Kelleway, Spiez, Switzerland
I feel saddened to have to say this, but I think it's time for the UK to start thinking about packing it's bags and saying goodbye to a troubled relationship with the EU. I think we'd all be better off without the UK in the EU. I also believe that this schism over the rebate issue, is the beginning of the end.
With the re-introduction of customs tariffs and restrictions on free movement for the British within the EU, perhaps then and only then, will the peoples of Britain realise what the EU has done for them. It will save £3bn immediately, but lose far more in the long run.
OS, Brussels, EU
The refund was agreed 20 years ago for reasons we are all familiar with; the fact that we are still subsidising western countries' farmers and excluding third world producers from our markets is the real scandal which needs to be addressed. Tony Blair's policy is the right response to President Chirac's "gesture", designed to deflect criticism from the bloated CAP budget.
Phil Lilley, Warrington, UK
Perhaps Mr Chirac should focus his efforts on doing something about the chronic state of his own economy rather than trying to divert attention by taking cheap shots at the UK rebate in the hope of regaining some popular support at home after a crushing and highly embarrassing referendum defeat.
David Graham, London, England
This seems to me no more than an effort by Chirac and Schroeder to try to boost their standing at home, by seemingly taking a hard line with every European's pet hate - the UK. The rebate should stand, although why we are even in Europe is beyond me. The EU should be a trading organisation and nothing more.
Mark Q, Hastings, UK
The rebate issue is a cynical ploy by other member states to divert attention from the constitution fiascos in France and Holland. If other states want Britain to give up its rebate, then they should all be prepared to negotiate over their subsidies from the EU.
Nick Hird, London
I don't understand what the British are whining about. The Dutch pay the most to the EU per capita, but Blair feels that the system should not be changed, otherwise the UK has to pay more. The EU does not exist only for the UK (actually the other way around) so please consider your European partners, especially the smaller ones!
Oonai, Rotterdam, the Netherlands
How can President Chirac ask Britain to make a gesture of European solidarity when the people of his own country have just rejected the European Constitution, thus demonstrating their own lack of solidarity? Surely President Chirac is aware that an even greater percentage of British people also reject the Constitution - even though we are not to be allowed to say so.
Pat Barnard, Bath, UK
The UK and France have roughly the same size economy and population, they should pay the same into the EU budget so the rebate is not right. Then, the EU decides (together with the UK), where the money is spent.
It turns out that the EU currently considers that agriculture is one of its priorities and, as France is the biggest player in this area, French farmers receive the lion's share of it. The two are not exactly the same discussion. Perhaps the EU needs to change its priorities, but the UK and France should contribute the same.
For once I agree with Mr Blair. EU finance needs serious reform. It is interesting that the French are phrasing this as an act of solidarity. Maybe they should show the same solidarity by cutting their farm subsidies receipt and then we can happily talk about rebates.
It is about time that Germany and France realise they will not have it all their own way. France's farming subsidy is ridiculously over-inflated and is most definitely out of date with an ever decreasing agricultural sector. Blair is right in his stance, if they are unwilling to compromise on the farming subsidies, then the UK must keep its rebate.
Bruno, Stockport, UK
People here don't seem to realise how necessary the EU is to our survival. Without it we would be losing millions per day. Sure, the rebate is fair but think how unnecessary it would be once we place control of CAP intervention prices under a non-governmental entity that won't have to worry electorally about the pesky farmers unions.
Alex Mangan, Swindon, UK
The concept of a rebate is flawed. Just pay less in the first place. We pay over twice what the French pay but with only a slightly larger economy. We do not need Europe, the Swiss and Norway are doing superbly out of the EU.
Andrew Gardner, Grantham, UK
Britain should focus on trading with the world, not restrict itself to a backward and inefficient Europe. This effectively means withdrawing from the crumbling EU now, before it's too late.
John, Littlehampton, England
As long as the CAP remains then our rebate is not only justified but it should actually be increased. We should only compromise on the conditions that the CAP is scrapped completely and that the EU accounts are allowed to be signed off by the auditors. If the other European leaders refuse to recognise this then Britain should be prepared to veto all proposals. If that means they will be unable to agree an EU budget next week and this causes a subsequent crisis of confidence in the Euro, then so be it.
Jason Mead, Bristol
The UK should lose its rebate. There should be no need for us to have one. Simply by reforming the CAP we will not require one, countries like the Netherlands that pay over the average will have reduced contributions, and third world countries will benefit from an end to depressed trade prices for their crops.
Richard, Southampton, UK
No negotiation and no rebate. It was hard won by Maggie Thatcher and should remain until the whole CAP policy is scrapped.
Rob Gunthorpe, Bristol
If funding was fair and clear then there would be no need for rebates. France receives money in the form of subsidies for their farming industry - the UK gets a rebate, what's the difference? We need to look at the way funding is calculated and then work from there.
No way should the rebate be touched. The only possible way is if the common agricultural policy, which causes so much unfair trade with the poorer nations of the world, was scrapped.
We give £15million a day net to the EU, yet we cannot afford the NHS, old age pensions or a decent rail network. We should get out of the EU altogether, and the quickest way for this to happen would be to for us to lose the rebate. Then the public pressure to get out would be huge.
France should give up its subsidies to the CAP and all so-called wealthy EU countries should be forced to review their overall contributions. The UK should remain unmoved on this matter until there are real signs that others will move too.
John Beacock, Basingstoke, Hampshire
There are different issues here: 1) Chirac wants to divert the attention to something other than internal affairs 2) England should decide whether to join the EU fully or not 3) Countries like Spain (my own) should stop whimpering in Brussels and try to be constructive, rather than only going there only to ask for money.
Arturo, Spanish living in Paris
The UK is not the same country as it was 20 years ago. Although I agree that the CAP needs revision, there is no reason why the UK should be treated differently from other member states. It is just yet another example of the UK's half-hearted attitude towards Europe. Not in, not out. This damages the EU and should end one way or the other.
Once the constitution is sneaked in by the back door we will not have a say and it will go.
The UK already pays more than twice as much as France for similarly sized economies. In my opinion there needs to be a complete review of how the EU spends the money we the European tax payers have to cough up for it. Surely maintaining a parliament building in Strasbourg and having to move the entire parliament staff and their paper work in convoys of trucks once a month to and froe, just to satisfy Franco-German egos is reason enough. The UK shouldn't give up it's rebate, it's more money back in the NHS and education, where it belongs, than in the coffers of the wasteful EU.
Mr Chirac, Can you please 'make a gesture of solidarity' and give up the CAP. That would free up billions that could be used by the whole of the EU rather than a minority of French Farmers? And whilst we're at it, perhaps France would like to contribute the same amount as the UK? Seems the least that you can do seeing as your a far larger and richer country.
Taxation should match representation. Some EU countries have a lot of residents but are poor, so they don't pay but have a lot of voting power. Meanwhile other countries are small and rich but have no say. So some countries are paying while other countries are deciding. Yes, there is a need for an overhaul.
Ferenc van den Ham, Netherlands
There are many reasons not to give up the rebate. One of them is that the EU auditors have continually refused to sign off the EU accounts. Until there is more transparency showing how the money is spent and handled any discussion about the rebate should be shelved.
Chris, Haywards Heath, Sussex
We shouldn't be giving the EU a penny until it can get its auditors to sign off on its accounts (they have refused to do so for eight years now) and the EU takes steps to reign in the fraud that is endemic to the EU. And when is the EU going to stop its deliberate policy of impoverishing developing countries and scrap the CAP?
I am pro-EU, however the CAP is a subsidy for the French so called 'social model', all nations of the EU pay into the budget to support the French way of life. Firstly the CAP should be pretty much abolished to help not only poorer countries' farmers, but to stop us supporting France's way of life. In New Zealand I believe they ended farm subsidy and they're farmers learnt to diversify and adapt. My god now that actually sounds like running a business! We should keep the rebate as long as we (the EU) subsidise the French!
Mark, Devon, UK
For President Chirac to say that the UK should give up its rebate as a 'gesture of solidarity' while at the same time stating Agricultural Policy i.e. the CAP is not on the agenda is an absolute insult to not only Britain but the whole of Europe as well, especially the new member states who could do with a bigger slice of the CAP than what France wants them to have. What about a gesture from France about agreeing to reform the CAP? I doubt Mr Chirac is prepared to do that. Personally I would be happy to see the rebate go but only if there was a fundamental change to the way the CAP and the EU's budget in general is spent.
Paul Withers, West Midlands, UK
Mr Blair and Brown are absolutely right to open up a debate on EU spending reform. Europe, whether it likes it or not, has to face up to the competition presented by the global economy. The long term consequences of being wedded to unrealistic agricultural subsidies will have consequences for living standards and employment levels throughout the EU.
Gordon Calland-Scoble, Hants, UK
The UK should keep its rebate. Unfortunately I don't trust Blair to stick to his guns either. Past history has said he will say one thing to the UK press and then roll over in Brussels. France takes far more out of the EU than anyone else. The real issue, which Chirac avoids is why should the rest of Europe subsidise a rich country like France.
Tony Blair is dealing with this in a better manner than Margaret Thatcher did. The 'Iron Lady' managed to isolate us in Europe, whereas Mr Blair is not just saying 'no', he is making a case that should convince most moderate Europeans that under this present system we are morally and financially entitled to our rebate.
Jonathan Owen, Cannock, England
Although I am pro-Europe I hate the corruption, greed and "we know what is good for you" attitude of the whole institution. The EU should either be democratic, transparent and accountable or should not exist.
L Taylor, Nottinghamshire
The UK pays a proportionately higher amount per head than any other member of the EU. Tony Blair is right to dig his heels in & stand firm against other members. The alternative is to have a full reassessment of what each country pays in based on their GDP.
Martin Noon, Romford Essex
This whole thing is diversionary tactics by the French to draw attention away from the fact that they are the ones who had the no vote and put the EU into disarray, but then again who really expects the French to play fair when the CAP has been such a great money spinner for them.
Garry H, UK
Not while France refuses to even discuss reforming the CAP. Chirac needs his head examining if he thinks public pressure will work. Why? Because if Blair gave in, it would be seen as subsidising the French farmers even more at the British taxpayers expense - political suicide. Also, when are the Germans going to wake up to the fact that they always end up financing French objectives within the EU.
Malcolm Haig, Milton Keynes, UK
Of course it should. UK companies are happy to take advantage of being part of the EU, UK farmers are happy to take farm subsidies rather than actually farming, why should we have a rebate. I am constantly embarrassed by the UK populations' bile towards Europe while at the same time total acquiescence to the US. If the UK keeps its rebate, the EU should stop CAP and other subsidies to the UK and ban UK companies from doing business in Europe.
Vish, UK- why is it wrong for UK farmers to take £1 billion from the CAP but OK for French farmers to get £9 billion? Also if "UK companies were banned from doing business in the EU" we'd promptly leave the EU and win massive compensation for an illegal act that would be tantamount to declaring war.
Peter, UK (and proud of it!)
I don't thank Maggie Thatcher for very much but this is one of the few areas I think she did Britain a great service. The agricultural policy doesn't benefit us the same way it benefits France and so we need the rebate. How can France justify a system where we would pay 15 times more into EU coffers than they do? They are just trying to distract their voters from the unpopularity of their own government and failure of their economy.
NO! We should not surrender our rebate. We are the biggest net contributor to the EU, and get the 2nd worst deal after Germany in terms of what we receive back. If Chirac wants to "bond" Europe together, as he has stated, then asking for us to give up our rebate will only create more anti-Franco-German-European sentiment in Britain. We must keep it, and re-negotiate all of our finance negotiations with the EU, which see us losing out in all cases.
Daniel Taylor, London, England
Whether we should or whether we shouldn't is irrelevant as far as EU leaders are concerned. The decision will be based on back-door mutual back-scratching agreements made by self-serving politicians out to makes names for themselves. But one thing is for certain, whatever the outcome, every single politician involved will declare the decision as a victory.
Trevor, Cambs, UK
At present, the entire EU government decamps to Strasbourg once a month because the French insist on having a "seat of government". This takes up 16% of the entire EU budget. If France would be prepared to give ground and get rid of this unnecessary and wasteful practice, then probably everyone could have a rebate, not just the UK.
Anne, Brussels, Belgium
No. This rebate was agreed more than 20 years ago. Besides, we pay far more to the EU than we get back. If this causes a rift in the EU, then quite frankly I'll be very happy. We should never have joined the EEC let alone the EU. British citizens are being ripped off by our government and Brussels. I'm sick of seeing the proliferation of those signs that claim a project has been funded by the European Union. That money was ours in the first place! It's all propaganda designed to get people to believe that the EU benefits everyone. The only people to benefit from such an immoral and unnatural union are the political elite.
It is only fair to insist that the EU should look at the net contribution, per head of population, of each country before even thinking about giving up the UK's rebate.
Griff, Cardiff, Wales
Even with the rebate Britain pays £3 Billion more than it gets back. In comparison France pays only £1B. With the rebate removed Britain would be paying 6 times as much as France... a country with a bigger population and similar standard of living. The rest of Europe doesn't care about the U.K- they simply feel that our purpose in life is to subsidise inefficient continental farmers. If we lose the rebate we should leave the EU as its becomes far too expensive to be worthwhile. The extra £6 billion a year could transform our health care system.
...and how much of France's 9 billion in agricultural subsidies is Mr. Chirac prepared to give up in the name of European solidarity?
No it shouldn't under the current circumstances. I also can't help but feel the rebate issue is being used to get people's attention away from the failure of the EU constitution. The only time we should even consider talking about this is when the French give up taking so much money from the flawed CAP, of course Mr Chirac has said its not on the agenda and why am I not surprised.
D Burnham, UK
Charity begins at home Mr Chirac. Blair is right - reform the CAP and then we can talk about the rebate. Over 50% of EU budget going in to farm subsidies (of which France is the biggest recipient) is disgusting.
Simon, Leicester, England
No we shouldn't give it up. Margaret Thatcher (love her or loathe her) won this back for the UK in a masterstroke manoeuvre and Blair should not negotiate it away with conditions to further reform within the EU as we know how well other countries bend and twist the rules to suit their own agenda. For the French to be net takers from the EU pot is a disgrace and it's galling to see Chirac pontificating about how the UK should pay even more into the club - basically to fund French Farmers. So a big "Oui" to keeping the rebate.
Paul, Bristol, England
It's not just France that needs to reform its agricultural subsidy policy. Britain too gives far too much money to its farming community to produce unwanted food. This is anti-competitive and harms producers from poorer countries. The Dutch donate more per head than any other nation, yet I never hear any thanks from the UK for the help in propping up its useless agriculture sector.
Matt, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (ex. UK)
Having heard the detailed breakdowns of net contributions, I agree with Tony Blair (and, even more remarkably, with Margaret Thatcher - that has to be a first). If the French want a "gesture of solidarity", maybe they could start the ball rolling by reducing the massively generous subsidies they get out of the EU for their farmers. If we are really talking about money going back to member states from the EU, I fail to see the distinction between our rebate and the subsidies paid to other member countries.
Alex Hazel, Hants, UK
The fact that the UK gives the EU 3 billion only to receive it straight back again only goes to show how bureaucratic and pointless the whole system can get.
Mark, London, UK
As Mr Blair pointed out - we already contribute 2.5 times more to the EU coffers than France with the rebate intact! Maybe France should stop hogging so much for their farmers and contribute more themselves before questioning us?
Duncan Law, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England
Both the French and British economy are almost the same size, also the population are comparable. The French wants Britain to give up its rebates, which will mean that Britain will end up paying 15 times the net contribution of France. Does anyone think this is fair? The rebate should not be up for negotiation at all, it is only because Chirac needs the money for French farm subsidies.
Gary, Kent, England
Yes, maybe it could and should be cut alongside the CAP by 10% a year for all countries, of course this will cost the French far more than the English as they gain most from CAP handouts.
James Rice, Skegness, UK
Mr Blair has said that even with the rebate, Britain makes 2.5 times the contribution of France. It is not our rebate which should be under the spotlight, but France's lack of contribution to the EU budget. Why do they pay so little, and how can they have the sheer cheek to ask us to pay more? All this furore about the rebate is a smokescreen from France to hide their embarrassment over the result of their referendum. The sooner France gets rid of its current leadership, and puts real leaders in place the better it will be for France, Britain and the EU. So stick to your guns, Tony Blair!
Paul McCarthy, Tamworth
Whilst I agree that the UK should hold onto its rebate, I think the real issue that should be dealt with here is how Europe spends the money that all nations contribute. Far too much money is wasted subsidising European farmers, keeping Third World farmers poor. Let's not waste time, and deal with this, the real challenge we face.
This move by some members of Europe is clearly meant to divert attention away from the European Constitution's failure and clearly the media have been ignorant to this fact and followed their lead, the government should stand firm and divert the attention to the amount of money France receives via the CAP.
Rishi Baungally, London, UK
Thatcher won the rebate in 1984 and all EU leaders should accept it. It's fair that the UK 'get their money back' because they have contributed to the EU more than the founder members. France, Italy and Germany were the main beneficiaries of CAP and this justify the UK in getting there money back.
Amin Ameer, London
Tell France to contribute their fair share before we ever give up the rebate. Sounds like the whole funding issue needs addressing before the rebate is given up. Why should the UK contribute more than France? They never give anything away so they have no justification in asking for the rebate to be withdrawn or even reduced.
Dave Hall, Farnborough Hants
Some of us are fed up with a Europe run by a Franco-German alliance to the detriment of all other countries. Germany certainly pays more than its fair share as does the UK. France, declared a richer country than the UK only last year, should be paying far more. The UK would far better off out off this undemocratic expensive mess!
Richard, Worcestershire UK
I believe the UK should refuse the EU rebate. Furthermore, it appears that the UK's economy is performing well on its own. Does the UK really need the EU? I believe they would do well without having to support the stagnant economies of socialist-minded countries like France.
Valentin Flores, Miami, United States of America
Generally I believe that the UK should give up the rebate. It is not fair to the rest of Europe. However I strongly believe that Europe should "update" as it is clearly a lot different now than 30 years ago. Not only with the expansion reaching 25 Countries, but whole social, industrial and even climatic changes will effect every country. Once Europe has updated, including how to spread funding fairly, then the UK rebate should be removed. But by then, we may be getting other sources of funding.
Samael, Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK
Tony Blair is right to refuse. Furthermore we should not pay any more than France and we should demand a fair revision of the whole common agricultural policy.
Alan Maxwell Nicholson, Stourbridge UK
I think we should give up our rebate - in exchange for the abolition of the CAP. Try that on M. Chirac - and stand well back .
Colin Nolan, Preston
I do not think that the UK should give up the EU rebate. Yet again, our European 'colleagues' are either trying to tell us what to do, or being critical. It is refreshing to see Mr Blair 'sticking up' for the UK. If France and other EU members are that bothered, then let's see if they can make a 'gesture' and increase their contributions in line with ours.
Darren Roughneen, Manchester, England
We should never give up our rebate. Chirac is using this issue to deflect his own problems at home, for the embarrassing rejection of Europe and for his leadership that is not respected by his own people. The only negotiating that should be done is to sort out the nonsensical contributions made by countries that get very little out. The French do very well and should keep quiet.
Malcolm Lee-gibbons, Southsea, Hants
I think the PM should stick to his guns but only to drive change in funding for certain things such as CAP. Three Billion to a rich country like the UK is not much we should be prepared to see to drive change in what the EU spends the money o money o money on he should also encourage greater transparency given the numerous financial scandals surrounding the EU. The institution needs cleaning up!
Eric Smith, UK
Yes, Tony Blair was right in refusing such a 'gesture' and equally right in saying that the CAP must be looked at again before the French or any other EU nation talks of us surrendering it again. The CAP is the only thing holding Europe back...the world has moved on and so must the French, Italian and Irish farmers too! And by the way, I'm in favour of a more federalist, social EU Constitution.
John Pearson, London, UK
Mr Blair can surrender the rebate when M. Chirac surrenders his strangle-hold on the EU budget, the CAP.
The problem isn't the percentage of GDP being paid into the EU, it's that certain countries take out a large proportion of the EU monies compared to others. The CAP heavily subsidises France whilst punishing us. Therefore we have our "rebate". It would be better for us if the CAP was abolished and the EU money spent where it's needed - in the poor areas of the EU.
I've always thought of the British rebate as a form of compensation. Britain implements 90% of EU law into its own law. This is proportionately way above France, Germany and Italy, who drag their heels in introducing EU law onto their own statutes. As a result, the UK deserves the rebate as it respects EU law the most.
Chris, Pinner, UK
Quite right TB. the CAP needs reform and the EU needsEU needs restructuring to become properly accountable to its citizens; once those issues are fixed, by all means review the rebate, because by then we will know that relative contributions are fair and appropriate - or not.
Alan Batchelor, Cardiff UK
Just withdraw from the EEC, and let them get on with it!
Alan Bujok, Luton
I don't understand why UK would be the biggest contributor to the EU without the rebate. An explanation would be welcome. Is UK so rich? I don't believe it. Last time I went in England, I saw a lot of poverty, poor people, poor workers, dirty streets, old trains, and so on... I agree that UK should keep the rebate, but the money of it should be used to eradicate this overwhelming poverty.
Paul Geeron, Saintes, France
Some of us are fed up with a Europe run by a Franco-German alliance to the detriment of all other countries. Germany certainly pays more than its fair share as does the UK. France, declared a richer country than the UK only last year, should be paying far more. The UK would be far better off out of this undemocratic expensive mess!
Richard, Worcestershire UK
There is a delicious irony in the French claiming Britain doesn't pay its fair share to the European Community. It's their own superannuated protectionist labour market that leaves them suffering with 12% of their workforce jobless, and youth unemployment at a staggering 25%. Since contributions to the EU are linked to GDP, it is those French who cry for General Strike at the least whiff of economic reform who aren't playing fair. We should be forgiven for imagining they should spend less time grasping across the channel for the next handout, and more on climbing out of the hole they've dug. I don't work hard to bankroll another four hour free lunch for the French.
Nick Fawbert, London
I really think that UK should hold a referendum and vote YES to the European Constitution for a very pragmatic and happy reason. According to the new Constitution, a country can leave the Union. So there was your chance British friends. Vote YES and leave the Union once and for all.
Dr Nikolaos Antoniou, Brussels, Belgium
I agree the fairest way to make a contribution is through a percentage of each nation's GDP. This would be a way to subdue frictions over fairness. If this cannot be achieve achieved then the figures prove in the name of fairness that Britain should continue to receive a rebate.
Nigel Fenton, San Francisco California
Now it's our turn to say Non!