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Last Updated: Monday, 20 June 2005, 08:51 GMT 09:51 UK
EU in 'deep crisis': Your views
French President Jacques Chirac chats with British Prime Minister Tony Blair as French foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy watches (AFP/Getty Images
Bitter recriminations are flying between the EU states after an attempt to agree a deal on the union's future budget failed.

The current President Jean Claude Juncker said that the EU is in "deep crisis".

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder blamed UK and Dutch obduracy for one of the EU's "gravest" crises, however UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the failure could prove a turning point.

What direction is the EU going? Does Europe need to review its economic system? Do you think rebates and the Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) are unfair?

This debate is now closed, thank you for your comments.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

This topic was suggested by Pete, England:
Is it time for a debate on the UK's contribution to the EU?

The majority of comments on this forum are clearly in favour of the UK position. The UK is not being unreasonable; Mr Blair knows that he has the backing of the UK population for his firm position. Britain is quite willing to give up the rebate, it simply wants to do this as part of a wider review of the EU budget and not leave the CAP set in stone for the next 40 years. It is the French and Germans who need to wake up to the realities of globalisation, there is no free lunch anymore!
Chris, Brazil

Too many of your correspondents appear to be completely hung-up on France. No one has mentioned that the Germans pay far more into the EU than they receive back in "rebates".
Harry Collier, Malmesbury UK

Does this wealth that Britain is meant to have include the over one trillion pounds of personal debt, stagnating economy and massive government debt, all pulled further into the abyss by a cash hungry and obscenely large public sector? This, once again, stinks of media distortion with but a tinge of truth to give them credit. But maybe the people of Europe believe the truth is of no importance anyway.
Dave Beardsley, Kent, England

The bigger the crisis the better
Daisy Gonzales, London, UK
The bigger the crisis the better, on all fronts, including more no votes, because this is the only way of shaking the tree and getting some accountability, whatever the outcome. And I hope that the tree is shaken harder and harder to really root out the rot that is affecting us all in one way or another.
Daisy Gonzales, London, UK

Blair and I presume Brown appear to hold the view that the EU exists for the sole benefit of the UK. Given the angst in Commonwealth trade relations following the UK's wooing of the Europeans, this puts the UK in a parlous situation if the EU should decide they are better off without them.
Harry, Australia

Surely the point is for everyone to compromise? We were given the rebate when we financially couldn't afford to pay, however now we can. We should drop the rebate, but there should be an overal review on where the money goes. Other countries need to be willing to make the compromise to become more efficient if they expect this to work. Most of all we don't need some of the most powerful leaders in the world to reduce themselves to playground squabbling.
Tom, Nutley, England

There is a simple answer that seems to have slipped everyone's minds. End the European 'experiment' - it doesn't work. The French can pour the money they send into Europe back into its own farm subsidies, we get to throw a few billion at health, education, and defence. Everyone's happy, except the states who seem to thrive on EU handouts at our expense. Oh, and we avoid this bitter in-fighting that the EU is causing between its members. We don't need a super-state to remain friends, and we don't want a super-state to cause rifts.
Curtis, UK

Many of the "old European" countries have huge debts, their present spending levels cannot continue. To align ourselves even more with this crumbling EU relic makes no sense. We need a trading block, as the EEC once was- not a United States of Europe.
James, Kent

This "crisis" is being blown out of proportion: when have EC/EU budget negotiations ever been easy, ever not gone down the wire? It's a tradition and let's see what happens during the Austrian and perhaps Finnish presidencies. A deal will be found. It was unwise to push so hard and so publicly so early with so many leaders under pressure needing to play tough back home. Europe has been here before and not only survived but prospered.
Bob, Verbier

I thought that bigger EU would do a lot of good, not only to newcomers but to the old members too. A year ago we were enthusiastic about what future was going to bring. Yesterday it became obvious: rich want to get even richer and there is no way they would give something up for the sake of the poorest. It's sad for me, not just because my country will not get the money it needs, but also because the notion of European cooperation turned out to be a fantasy again.
Ola, Warsaw, Poland

Other countries in the UK complain that Britain, as a "rich nation", should be willing to give up the rebate and pay more. But why is the UK relatively economically prosperous? It is because we have a better structured economy, operating on a more free market model. Why should we pay more to subsidise the economic failings of countries that are tied to more socialist economic models?
Alan Smallwood, Surbiton

It is nice to see the UK putting it's foot down about something finally. However, I think that this represents the very tip of the iceberg in terms of the huge number of disputes and amount of bickering that will result as an unworkably large and increasingly disparate union tries to find its way forward. Perhaps the end of the EU as we know it is finally in sight, no bad thing in my book. There is too little in it for us as a nation anymore.
Tim, Dover, UK

Initially, I thought the rebate should be returned to Britain. However, it's important to consider that Germany is the biggest contributor and receives the least in benefits and France receives more of an agricultural rebate because it has more farmers per head than any other EU country.
Gavin Hussain, Bridgwater

The EU crisis is fundamentally a lack of clear communication and cooperation.
Mark, Munich, Germany
I think the UK should pack up its bags in Brussels, and move back to its island mentality of isolationist and separatist policy. The EU crisis is fundamentally a lack of clear communication and cooperation founded upon a common vision for balanced economic unity.
Mark, Munich, Germany

Can someone - preferably someone French and in favour of the farming subsidy - please explain to me why France should contribute less to the EU than the UK? Let alone increasing the gap by cancelling the rebate! I personally wouldn't mind the rebate being reduced, but I don't see why it should be to the benefit of France rather than the poorer new member states.
Nick, UK

Having been a profound supporter of the EU for ages, I have totally lost faith in the European project. What is wrong with a free trade agreement? What integration on a social, cultural economic level. It is never going to work. We are just too diverse...
Christian, London, UK

Having sat in EU meetings in Brussels, my daughter told me years ago that each of the 12 members were there mainly to see that nobody got a better deal than they did. I guess she was right and France is just beginning to see that they cannot have it their own way forever. Stand firm, Tony.
Al, UK

Are we to assume from the latest EU crisis that it is the responsibility of Britain and the richer EU states to fund the poorer EU states? If so, then I would far sooner this EU funding be directed to some African countries, whose need is far greater and limit the EU role to strategic alliances.
Phil Taylor, Britain

Yes, the European Union is in deep crisis and a good job too. The politicians have attempted to ignore the views of the public at large and have not heeded the concerns voiced. The EU was primarily supposed to have been a free trade block, nothing more - or at least that is what we were told. That clearly has proved to be not the case and now the ramifications are appearing.

The United Kingdom under Margaret Thatcher negotiated in full agreement with the other EU partners the payments to be made and rebates. Politicians have to learn that a deal is a deal. France has to reform its agricultural policy to enable the UK to review its own situation. I also think Spain has been very fortunate to have received so much funding from the EU and it is about time some savings were made. Spain will of course protest but it is by no means a poor country and can well afford it.
D Travers, Tortosa, Spain

They don't like us, we still like them, they don't want to be with us, they are free to go
Ioannis, Thessaloniki

I am sick and tired of listening to the views of the UK for a Europe that its people don't accept or feel part of. The UK might want access to our markets and they should receive, it might want peaceful neighbours and therefore stability at its borders and they should receive. However, if the UK wants to destabilize political equilibrium in Europe over the interests of its transatlantic friend, then it will find resistance from Europeans.

The UK is a nation populated by great people of reasonable views that love their country and would try everything to support it. They don't like us, we still like them, they don't want to be with us, they are free to go. If the rest of Europe tries to hold the UK hostage in Europe, we will fight for the right of the UK to leave. Follow your heart UK.
Ioannis, Thessaloniki, Greece

France should be ashamed and embarrassed at the crude and blatant way its leader scuppered the talks in a desperate attempt to save himself: I share Tony Blair's incredulity at Chirac's performance
Freddy May, London

Blair's dream is to go down in history as a great British prime minister. He has failed miserably to date (and he has had long enough to try) but he now has the golden opportunity to make an indelible mark not only in the pages of British but also European history - by taking the UK out of the EU and thereafter repealing all inappropriate EU legislation adopted by the UK since the disaster of Maastricht.

I am very pro-European and no supporter of Tony Blair - but on this matter he is entirely right. It is absolutely preposterous that the French cannot control their own farmers and that the rest of Europe has to pay for their gross inefficiency
Ted, Leeds, UK

People who support an end to poverty in the Third world should support a complete overhaul (and possible end) to the Cap and farming subsidies
Jane, London

People who support an end to poverty in the Third world should support a complete overhaul (and possible end) to the Cap and farming subsidies. Until Third world farmers can trade fairly with Europe (and the US with its huge farming subsidies) the countries of Africa will never develop to give their citizens a decent standard of living.

Bravo to Tony Blair for shining a light on the EU budget - it needs a complete change. It shows how complicated politics is though! New Zealand farmers lost farming subsidies a few years ago and had to diversify. The EU should look Down Under for a precedent.
Jane, London

It's time to ask Britain to opt out of Europe all together. We're letting them ruin our future.

Children and playground comes to mind. I am proud that we the UK stood up for ourselves. Maybe being a member of such a bullying institution is something we need to look at deeper.
Mike, Plymouth, UK

The problem isn't the UK rebate but the massive subsidy given to inefficient French farmers. If Jacques Chirac would be as determined to sort out the long term problems of French farms as he is to stop the UK rebate The Netherlands, Germany and the UK wouldn't have subsidise the French so much and we wouldn't have this problem in Europe.

We in the Netherlands are also not happy with the Cap. If France won't sort out its own problems why should the British have to pay for it? In fact why should we, the Dutch, have to pay for it also? It's time the Netherlands and Germany also got a rebate.
Alex Farley, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Blair will probably back down or compromise. He is weak.
Rod Watson, Reading, Berkshire

Tony Blair is absolutely right to stand up to Chirac's thinly veiled attempt to deflect attention from his own abject failure over the recent referendum. France is the EU country surely least qualified to lecture the UK about efficiencies, subsidies, rebates or net contributions to the European project.
Peter, Solihull, UK

The EU does not exist only for the benefit of those who encourage unfair trade especially in agricultural spheres by upholding a morally bankrupt Cap.
Simon, Sheffield, UK

Since Britain joined the EU, it has always been the odd man out. Opt out this and opt out that, red line this and red line that, suspend human rights charter for this or for that. Always rocking the boat. It is just a matter of time before Britain becomes an American state. As it stands, it behaves like an American colony. So why not just leave the EU and let the other get on with it. Degaule was 100% right in his perception.
Riaz Ahmad, Stoke-on-Trent, UK

The UK holding on to the rebate is not anti-European
Neil, Aberdeen

I think the point is being missed here. The UK holding on to the rebate is not anti-European. It is however a tool with which we may be able to leverage some long over due change in the mess that has become European economic policy. I just hope the dinosaurs of Europe are finally killed of and we can make a union fit for the 21st Century!
Neil, Aberdeen

It is time for the UK to withdraw itself from the EU which has capsized under the weight of French arrogance. The Swiss are not members, and neither should we be. Can someone please tell me why Spain, Ireland etc continue to receive huge net benefits, despite being rich countries?
Christopher, Englishman in Germany

The events of the last night clearly show the unlimited arrogance of the old Member States towards the newcomers. In any event the countries of Central and Eastern Europe will be the direct victims. Even if the budget is agreed on a later date the structural funds and Cap will be paid with a considerable delay. It is particularly shameful as the old MS were beneficiaries of the Marshall plan while the CEE were under brutal Soviet dominance.
Adam Lazowski, The Netherlands

Germany and the Netherlands pay more into the EU than all the other countries combined. So what is Tony Blair on about? Nothing but his own political survival. Now again he is a hero at home and his deceit about going to war will be forgotten and forgiven.
Niels Thomsen, Spain

France wants UK's money to support its farmers, not to assist the other poorer countries in EU.
Ke Vuan, China

I think Britain should give up its rebate only if Brussels commits to sweeping budgetary reforms including the abolishment of the Cap. Sadly it is the French economic model that is the problem, it is too protectionist, which is now harming its own economy, and harming countries who have to trade without subsidies (i.e. Africa and Asia.

If Brussels refuses, I would push for Britain to withdraw from the Union (even though I am pro-European). The withdrawal of Britain's monetary contributions would be a wake up call for the EU. If they are unable to fund the Cap and other policies, they will have to reform them.
Darla, UK

One question: Why are we in the EU? It does nothing for us!
Paul Simpson, Leicester, UK

What would make it fairer? Transparent accounting would be a good start. Abolishing the Cap would be great for everybody not only the EU. It wouldn't be so bad if the Cap meant cheaper food but it doesn't. If the UK can use the rebate as a lever to get old European leaders to join the real world so well and good.
John, France

Isn't it a little short sighted to say that Britain does not benefit from farming subsidies - surely the idea behind a common agricultural policy and free trade within Europe is to allow a greater market - so if French farmers get subsidised to produce then this is to the benefit of all the Union as we are all consumers of that produce!
Richard Speight, Barnsley, UK

The entire EU budget is a complete shambles which auditors have been unable to sign off for years
Ken Gray, Cardiff

The statements coming from EU countries opposed to the rebate that Britain is now far wealthier than it was when the rebate was agreed completely miss the point. We are richer because we have had to endure massive upheavals in our social and working structures that others - most notably France and Germany - simply refuse to accept.

Longer working hours, reduction in social security benefits, opening of utility markets, increased de-regulation to name but a few. Moaning about a three billion rebate that makes our net contribution just about reasonable is a blatant smokescreen set up by embarrassed and beleaguered European heads of state to deflect attention from their own domestic situations and international failures.

The entire EU budget is a complete shambles which auditors have been unable to sign off for years. If this was a PLC then there would, rightly, be calls for heads to roll at the top of the organisation. The EU was set up to be an aid to trade not a form of government, maybe we should try going back so we can move forward.
Ken Gray, Cardiff, UK

We should pay no more than the French. Final.
Colin Laverick, London

For one more time it has been shown that UK has a totally different viewpoint with the rest of the EU members. It is not France that objects and calls for the UK rebate issue, the vast majority of members shares this opinion too. If UK feels so exceptional then perhaps the time has come to disengage from full membership.

Let's be frank, UK views EU as a huge trade area, instead most of the other members view EU as an entity of further political integration. The rebate is only the surface of the long-troubled relation between UK and EU.
Konstantinos, Athens

The problems are not the rebate or the French's agricultural policy. Europe is facing a slow lingering death of ideology. It cannot accept that the world is more gloabalised and that jobs and social security are now in serious jeopardy. Unless serious reform is undertaken on the economic situation, unemployment will continue to rise and Europe will lose its competitive edge from other countries willing to cut in on Europe's weakness of decision.
James, Cornwall

The power of each country in the European Union should be based on how much it contributes. Germany should therefore be the permanent head of the EU.
Roger Bascom, Edmonton, Canada

Would the French and Germans give up rebate if they had one? I think not.
Carl, Maidstone, Kent

Living in the UK for six years and having conversations with my mother tonight (living and working in Paris) about the 3bn rebate, she tells me the news in France is minute on that aspect, the focus is on the lack of Chirac's popularity, recent change in government, never ending redundancy and overall obstructiveness of the unions. This is the story behind Chirac's demands to Blair.
Olivier Vigneresse, North Wales

People talk about "fairness" as the only solution. Since when has the EU been fair? It is an undemocratic union of Eurocrats lobbying for their own self interests. Forget fairness. Just make sure we get the best deal.
Lawrence, Crowthorne, Berks

I am no particular fan of Tony Blair, but I do think his stance is correct on this issue. If (and this is a big 'if') a wholesale reform of how the European budget is organised can be achieved, diverting spending away from over-compensated agriculture (not just in France but across the whole of Western and Northern Europe) then there is a very good case for the rebate to be withdrawn. The lack of applicability to Britain in the EU budget is the main reason why the rebate was introduced in the first place!
Dave, Oxford, UK

The British rebate does need debating - it is far too small! France gets 24bn in farm aid while Britain gets only 9bn farm aid from the EU. Therefore it stands to reason that the British rebate should be increased from 3bn around 15bn - as both countries have similar population size.
John Ley, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

If the UK also says "no" to constitution the EU will be just an economical union not a political union. On the other hand, Turkey will not be allowed to union. This will be better for Turkey.
Ottoman Turkoglu, Istanbul, Turkey

A new budget system for Europe is definitely needed given the expansion to 15 member states
Andrew, Cambridge, England
A new budget system for Europe is definitely needed given the expansion to 15 member states. This has to happen with or without discussion of the rebate if Europe is to remain credible. If Blair can hang onto the rebate long enough, France will have to give way, or it will further destroy the idea of a United Europe.
Andrew Puckering, Cambridge, England

Even with the rebate, Britain still pays more than France into the EU. Perhaps the French will also be willing to pay an extra 3billion into the EU? Of course if we weren't in the EU then the rebate wouldn't be an issue.
David Russell, Glasgow, Scotland

It's laughable (but sad) to hear the word solidarity in this context. Where is the French solidarity when it comes to opening the EU to agricultural products from developing countries? The mad policies of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are not only destructive in Europe, but also contribute greatly to world poverty. It is this mad CAP that needs to be ended - now - and not the British rebate. If France absolutely wants to subsidise its farmers, fine - but then let the French taxpayer pick up the bill!
Chris, London, UK

If the UK wants to eat mad cows, please go ahead but without me! The EU is about nations collaborating in order to compete with the outside! Not the other way around. Does the UK have other values than "God saves my money"? The UK farmers are also getting money from the CAP as far as I am aware.
Dominique, Paris, France

Certainly, we should. We will be in a position then to start dictating to the EU (with us having the greatest financial power) where the money will go (to the poorer new nations) instead of the ungrateful money pits of the Mediterranean. European friends, how many times do you have to be told we don't have the money? If we give it up, other EU countries may learn to be more thankful for our realistic, thought-out approach instead of the tiresome idealistic one.
Mark, UK

The UK is richer is because pensioners receive pensions which are abysmal compared with other European countries
Cyril Ord, Berwick upon Tweed, England
One reason why Britain should contribute more is because the UK is richer than it was 20 years ago when the refund was established. One of the reasons that the UK is richer is because pensioners receive pensions which are abysmal compared with other European countries. The reward for the British government's persecution of its senior citizens is the prospect of further persecution by the EU.
Cyril Ord, Berwick upon Tweed, England

The 'argument' over the rebate is just a cynical political manipulation by Chirac to pre-empt the US/UK initiative on free trade with Africa. Chirac will next turn round and say that it is not about free trade but it is the UK's fault that the CAP stays in place - because of the rebate row.
Ian, Reading, UK

Surely the answer is for France and other countries to develop economies that can create wealth that justifies a contribution equal to UK's gross contribution. Expand the pie rather than arguing about dividing the pie. As it is this huge capital flow into France via the farmers is distorting the price of the Euro and allowing France to divert resources onto other national projects that we can't afford.
Bill, England

As a Swedish EU-citizen I fail to understand what Mr Blair are complaining about. The British rebate should end as soon as possible. The Swedish taxpayers has since the EU-entry paid a lot of money without having one single euro in rebate. The EU does not exist only for the benefit of the UK. So please consider the rest of your European partners! Get rid of the rebate and in the long run CAP.
Niclas, Uppsala, Sweden

Britain was invited to join a "Customs Union" and promised by then prime minister, Edward Heath, that the country would sacrifice no sovereignty as a result. Since then the Common Market/EEC/EU has ballooned into the costly, undemocratic, corrupt, wasteful institution that most of us now love to hate. The sooner Britain gets out, the better!
Fay Gjester, Norway

This is being blown out of all proportion
Mike D, Paris, France
Once again driven by the tabloid media that still exists in Blighty, this is being blown out of all proportion. We are talking about 3bn, a drop in the ocean, in comparison to maintaining soldiers in place in Iraq
Mike D, Paris, France

Margaret Thatcher got the rebate in a time when Britain was suffering economic crisis and Germany was l doing very well. Now the situation is the other way round, so what's the problem? I'm completely against CAP, but is it worth to constantly offend all the other European countries paying the whole share? The European idea stands for a union of equals and tolerant citizens and not for chauvinistic Thatcherism. I lost faith that Britons will one time come to an understanding of these concepts and I think you should seriously consider to leave the EU for some years to find out what you want!
Rolf, Darmstadt, Germany

The French/German position is untenable in that it is not reasonable to ask for one item of the EU budget to be considered in isolation. On the other hand the position of Britain's Euro-sceptics is equally untenable when they say the rebate is a matter of principle and should not be discussed under any circumstances. The position of the UK Government on this seems pretty sensible to me: we will discuss it when the CAP is on the table as well.
David Pavett, London, UK

The playing field has changed since 20 years ago, and it may seem right to ask Britain to reconsider its position. However, by focusing simply on just the British rebate instead of spending as a whole, M. Chirac is being an exceptionally cynical politician - hoping that divisive politics by portraying Britain as the guilty party will patch over the French no vote and his troubles at home. I hope that French voters realise this cynical tactic for what it is, rather than be drawn into a naive tit for tat name calling across the Channel.
Martin Curtis, Budapest, Hungary

The rebate is far too valuable a negotiating tool to be given away lightly
KM, Germany
Once again the British Government has been shown to be naive when dealing in the international political arena. To allow a matter as trivial as a 3bn rebate to dominate the meeting and 6 month Presidency when far more urgent matters need addressing shows how inept British politicians really are. Who is dictating the agenda? Two leaders in desperate trouble domestically. Schroeder is gone in September without a Lazarus-like return in opinion polls. Chirac has had to appoint his main rival to prime minister from the political black-hole of French Finance Minister and is desperate to save his own neck. Without receiving any gains Blair has gone from saying "no" to "yes" under certain conditions? The rebate is far too valuable a negotiating tool to be given away lightly and should stay until something worth its cost is achieved for Europe as a whole.
KM, Germany

How predictable. The French and Dutch vote against the Constitution. The EU budget is ready to collapse because of the CAP spending 49% of it on 5% of the Euro population and 3% of EU output...but Britain's rebate is to blame for the mess and the focus of attack. How easily and readily the newer members fall into line behind Chirac in the mistaken belief that they will get their noses in the trough....Time to get out of this mad hatter's tea party.
K, England

This is definitely not a storm in a tea-cup. If the European leaders do not put aside their differences structural cracks could scupper the European dream. Statesmanship is not brinksmanship and right now there seems to be some confusion. Get real leaders and realise that Europe is here to stay and it is time for practical measures not bickering and puckered faces.
Pancha Chandra, Brussels; Belgium

Thankfully there is a Tony Blair in Europe to put some common sense in this mess! The only economy in Europe that is working is the British, why can't the rest of Europe recognise that the "Anglo-Saxon system" as they call it, is what it makes it work? Why should Britain finance the agriculture subsidies in France? Let's stop these subsidies and let true market work. Stop this nonsense of saying "we are all the same" because we are not. Let us have an economic union and not a political one. If we are strong economically and stop loosing time in pretending we are one country, we will be that power that the World needs.
Sofia Pinto, Lisbon, Portugal

France and Germany are the biggest beneficiaries of the CAP and regional development fund, respectively. Abandoning the rebate would make the UK easily the biggest net contributor to EU funds, even though it has a smaller economy and population than Germany. Chirac and Schroeder are playing a very naive game of one-upmanship, based on half-truths, that can have only one winner - Blair. I suspect that these two political has-beens already know this.
Tom, UK

By refusing to lose its rebate, the UK once again proves it despises Europe. This attitude is deeply shocking while, at the same time, Blair gave a wonderful lesson concerning the debt of the poorest countries in the world. Why not applying the same notion of solidarity towards the poorest countries of Europe?
Jonathan, Leuven, Belgium

Chirac agreeing to review the CAP would be political suicide
Oliver Piper, London
It seems the rebate is here to stay; review of the rebate must go hand in hand with review of the CAP. The CAP is grossly unfair to many member states (with the obvious exception of France). But Chirac agreeing to review the CAP would be political suicide, just as it would be for the PM if he agreed that the UK should contribute even more to the EU coffers.
Oliver Piper, London

Britain should not give up its rebate unless a draconic reform will take place in the EU. The German and French leaders have no authority to represent their country anymore. Election in Germany will cause a landslide in politics. Chirac blocks an election in France. People in the EU have changed their mind about the direction of the EU. France and Germany want to govern the EU. Britain is our only hope to prevent the dominance of these dinosaurs. Britain should lead the way to a new EU.
HGM Duijker, Beverwijk, Holland

Only when CAP is scrapped ... my cousin is French and rents two of his fields to a local farmer - the farmer is then paid six times the rental to do nothing with the field. So Mr Chirac - we'll give up our rebate when your farmers stop ripping off the rest of the EU!
Perry, Berkshire, UK

The fact the EU rebate is back on the political agenda is a diversionary tactic. Following voters rejection of the EU Constitution in France , Chirac's popularity is in free fall and like any politician he needs to create a diversion by making something else an issue.
Russell, London, UK

De Gaulle stopped Britain and Denmark from joining the Common Market due to our efficient farming systems not being compatible with the CAP. He required French farming votes as part of his powerbase. We knew this when Ted Heath took us in and we should have done the negotiating then. Notwithstanding that, we should struggle to remove the insidious CAP as it is one of the greatest barriers to the third world farmers generating exports for their countries. Do we expect France to agree to this? I think not.
Bob, Ayr, Scotland

It is Britain that wanted the new countries to join the most
Guy, London (from Belgium)
It is Britain that wanted the new countries to join the most. It is unfair that they are not willing to pay for that, and will in fact even pay less and less over the next 10 years. As it stands now, the UK already pays less per head towards the EU than a lot of other countries. If this doesn't suit the UK, maybe it should just call the whole thing off.
Guy, London (from Belgium)

How can we give up our rebate when Ireland, who now has a rate of growth well above the UK and a GDP per person higher than us, is still a net beneficiary from the EU? The sums just don't add up, are not fair, and we need a complete review, as TB says
Barry, UK

If it were not for the CAP there would have been no rebate in the first place. Thatcher negotiated the rebate after France refused to budge on the CAP during the 1980s. If Chirac were to budge on the CAP there would be mass protests across France and the whole country would grind to a standstill, (he is too afraid of that happening).
Pete, Selby

The problem is that the rebate IS unfair - but not on Germany and, especially, France. Blair is right. The EU is massively useful to the UK, and we'd be fools to try to leave it, but we need to restructure the EU finances so they benefit everyone - not just France. Chirac, unsurprisingly, is not impressed. The UK would remain largely the same, the other (and newer) EU states would benefit, and France (and Germany) would suffer.
Andy, Darlington

At least the EU philosophy( i.e. German/French philosophy)is becoming clearer. If a member state exercises prudent and disciplined fiscal policies and becomes wealthier as a result, it should not benefit. Instead, a significant portion of its increased wealth has to be put back in the pot for the benefit of those who have yet to face up to reality.
Ken, England UK

Europe will lose its power in 30 years if it does not change
Az, Morocco
Europeans are starting to look for scapegoats. Italians with their weak economy are blaming the euro. Some Germans are blaming the euro as well and private equity firms, French are blaming Eastern Europeans, and the Dutch are talking about immigration. What Europe needs is to liberate its economy, let in knowledge workers as immigrants and reduce the generous compensation for their unemployed. Asia, America, and "soon" Africa, Europe will lose its power in 30 years if it does not change.
Az, Morocco

Chirac.... a master at setting the agenda... ignore him and get back to discussing what to do with the failed constitution.
John Bowley, Chichester

Yes. We should also adopt the Euro and relax border controls. It's about time we actually joined Europe, instead of trying to be a forward base for US forces.
Anon, UK

Why are we even discussing the rebate? First of all we need to establish whether the UK taxpayer actually wants to pay this almighty sum of money to the EU in the first place. And then perhaps we could have a conversation about why no accountancy firm in the whole of Europe is prepared to sign-off the EU's accounts (or, more accurately, lack of them).
Alex Gener, London, UK

I'm a German living in the UK. I can see no reason at all for the UK to have the rebate. The EU isn't about who's getting the most out if it, and whoever thinks like that didn't get the point about the European Union. If, for example, France gets more help for farmers then it's because the French farmers NEED it. The so called discussion about Europe in the UK is not about Europe at all, it's about egoistic national interest for Great Britain. Not about how to make Europe better, but about how to get as much as possible out of it while trying not to be involved at all.
George W, Guildford, Surrey

Don't get distracted by the UK rebate debate, it is the UK's "special relationship" with the USA that is poisoning Europe.
Gary Chiles, Wellington, New Zealand

Even with the rebate, the UK is a larger net contributor than France (who benefits massively from the CAP). I have no objection that everyone paying their way in the EU, but for the French to maintain their subsidy and then call upon "solidarity" strikes me as hypocrisy of the highest order!
Alex, Cambridge, UK

I believe that national concerns are clouding an objective and fair assessment of the "fairness" of the UK rebate. Only by reviewing the overall EU economic system can we be certain that country-by-country biases are factored out of the conclusion. Above all, it is important for the EU to appear and, in fact, act on a level that convinces the rest of the world that it can be unified and objective. Otherwise, the suspicions of many that real cohesion will always be an "illusion" in EU will only be confirmed and this is not good for the EU politically and certainly not for the Euro. Good luck and pull together.
Chris, NYC, USA

It's possible that this is an attempt by Mr. Chirac to find another way of doing what no French ruler can do directly - to end the subsidies to French farmers. This way he can blame pressures from outside of France.
Gill, Llandysul, Wales

Chirac does his best to find a scapegoat after the referendum flop. Surprisingly enough, Blair is not blind
Hugues Mathis, Strasbourg, France
I think UK should pay its fair share, and so give up the rebate which is not relevant anymore as UK economy is in good shape. At the same time, France should definitely give up taking so much money from the EU for only 300 000 farmers. The common agricultural policy eats 40 billion pounds, at the same time EU grants to research don't even reach 10 billion. It's complete nonsense. Chirac does his best to find a scapegoat after the referendum flop. Surprisingly enough, Blair is not blind.
Hugues Mathis, Strasbourg, France

The real problem is that the intellectual and political elites of Europe have been setting the EU agenda on such issues as enlargement without consulting their electorates. Additionally the protectionist welfare-orientated economies of France and Germany are being challenged by Thatcherite free marketeer policies. Chirac's raking up of the rebate issue is designed to curry favour with other net EU contributors such as the Netherlands and to isolate the UK
Dan Ellwood, Christchurch, UK

Why is there a debate here? We should not be collecting a rebate at all and we should not be paying into the EU either. Britain could trade so much more efficiently outside of the EU and could exist more freely, if it only had the confidence to get off the fence and bow out completely! If you had a group of friends that argued this much and just wanted it all their own way with no care for you, would you continue to hang around with them? There is no respect and no future here!
JJ, Wokingham, UK

The UK should give up its rebate; France should also give up its bloated and disproportionate farming subsidies. Beyond helping areas in obvious need, the remainder of the budget should be spent fairly and generally in proportion to contributions. Oh, and the books need to balance too. Why haven't the people looking into this not been sacked?
Martin, London, UK

The EU will never ever rival the USA the way it is going
Andrew Brown, Ashford, UK
Before the EU asks any more favours from us, it should look at itself first. Firstly the farce concerning the annually relocation of the EU parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg must stop. Secondly France should stop molly-coddling its farmers and those on the left (vast sums could be saved). The EU will never ever rival the USA the way it is going.
Andrew Brown, Ashford, UK

Britain and France are being unfair to everyone else in Europe. Britain for making everyone pay for the rebate, and France for making others in Europe pay for its inefficient farmers.
Will, UK

Of course we should keep it, and it should actually be increased. What I find worrying is that Blair suggests that it can be negotiated - this is likely to mean going down, rather than up.
David Mercier, Kent, UK

The people who tell us we should pay as we're now much richer should take a moment to reflect on how that's come about. Not by being a protectionist socialist state, but by free trade. You like the money? Liberalise!
Elliot Fullwood, London, UK

I think you'd be hard pushed to find someone sensible against the rebate. After all it protects our country from being plundered in order to shore up the 'traditional' way of life in other EU countries. If the rebate goes, then I for one think we should pull back to the same position as Switzerland - all the advantages of the EU trading policies, but with none of the payment hassles.
Jamie Fryer, Southwark, London

France is only interested in two things from the EU, cash to support its inefficient farmers, and the reflected glory of a larger organisation, to enable it to have a bigger say on the world stage. That's why France will never give up the CAP and why its policy is one of ever closer EU integration.
John Webster, Aylesbury, England

When Chirac cuts the subsidies for French farmers, then he will be showing himself to be a patriotic European. I go along with Blair, lets sort this European miss-mash out once and for all. It's not balanced or fair by a long shot.
Billy, Hindley, England

We pay in far too much as it is. What about our own NHS, pensions, transport etc which would benefit if the money we pay in was used on these. As it is France grabs a large chunk of the CAP because their farmers are greedy and incompetent.
Chalkie, Colchester, UK

I am very concerned that Mr Blair will give in to EU pressure and give up Britain's rebate. We already pay in a huge, massive amount, far more than the vast majority of countries, and as far as I can see we get back exactly zero.
Jes, London

President Chirac refuses to discuss CAP, why should the UK take any notice of what he is saying regarding our rebate? Tony Blair must not give in to the childish bullying by both France and Germany.
Adam, Hereford, UK

Yes we should give up the rebate - but only after having walked way from the whole EU fiasco, thereby saving the contribution we're currently making to these bureaucratic incompetents.
David, Milton Keynes, UK

We should keep the rebate, at least until there is a wholesale review of European spending that addresses the imbalances in contributions by member states. I think this is another ploy by Chirac to divert attention away from his domestic problems. Is it a coincidence that this issue arose immediately after his crushing defeat in the constitution vote? He is relying upon anti-English sentiment in his country, buoyed after the Iraq war, to shift the blame for the failings of Europe onto the British.
Jonathan, Darlington, UK

Kiss goodbye to the UK Olympics bid if this rift continues to become septic
Richard Forster, Canterbury
It is not a question of giving up the rebate. Chirac didn't ask for the UK to give it up. But Blair could have started to reduce it - after all it will not last indefinitely. A better balance has to be struck so long as we ship vast quantities of money to Spain and new members. The argument is unnecessary except for posturing. PS Also kiss goodbye to the UK Olympics bid if this rift continues to become septic.
Richard Forster, Canterbury

Yes, the UK should give up its rebate. However only in conjunction with a total review of the spending goals of the EU. Subsidies should shift from agriculture to industry and research and development. This would mean a movement in the French position. If this is currently politically realistic is the big question.
Jan Dolleman, Delft, The Netherlands

We should give up the rebate as the first step in a process to remove us from the EU. It is a wasteful, corrupt, socialist organisation which does not suit the British way.
A Howlett, Cheshire, England

Let's face it the whole EU budgetary situation seems ludicrous - everyone in there aiming to get the best deal for themselves. What we need is a logical, well thought out strategy that takes the EU from a set of money-grabbing states to one where development and sustainable economic growth are there for everyone who wants to work hard.
Andy Trimble, Southport, UK

The UK is being greedy again. Your economy is strong, so you should help the struggling EU.
Pierre Vdliet, The Hague, Holland

Can I suggest a route from this impasse? The UK should give up its rebate, but should simultaneously and unilaterally leave the CAP. This would help farmers in the third world out of poverty and reduce food bills in British homes. Meanwhile French, Italian, Spanish and German farmers could continue to support their farmers, but would have to pay for it themselves. The British rebate would be gone, which absurdly was being paid for by poorer countries such as Latvia and Poland. Instead they would be contributing mostly to farmers in rich countries such as France and Italy. I'm sure this would soon lead to root and branch reform of the absurd CAP (currently reform discussions just get stuck in Franco-British rituals of abuse). Hope this is of use to Tony Blair.
Paul McKeown, Hayes, UK

Yes! Take into consideration how much Britain has gained on the booming Spanish and Irish economies, made possible by EU subsidies. However, Britain should insist on bringing the agriculture subsidies to France into the negotiations. Why should the EU continue to spend 25% of their budget on French farmers, while these in return vote no to Europe and attack McDonalds restaurants? This is an opportunity for Britain to take a leading role and bring Europe back on track, something that France has proven incapable of.
Kristian, Brussels, Belgium

Blair's knees have started knocking at the first French salvo. Go out and buy Maggie's book and see what a 'real politician' does when the French start their 'bully boy' routine.
Don, Hong Kong

The more I learn about the inequity of the EU, the more I wonder why any country would want to join
Roy, USA
The more I learn about the inequity of the EU, the more I wonder why any country would want to join. Hey guys, come on over to the "dark side", how about a Canada-UK-US-Australian trading block?
Roy, USA

Tony Blair is right. It is worth negotiating our rebate if it means a full review. I am sure Blair will receive the support from the recent members in Eastern and Central Europe to ensure a more equitable split and direct money away from the protectionist French farming community.
Alan Hughes, Edinburgh

No, we will not give up our rebate, the EU destroyed our farming industry. France have now said that their farming subsidy is not open for any discussion. Also I strongly disagree with the rest of Europe subsidising the 10 newcomers to the union. They have got to put in before they get something back.
W P Derhyshire, London, UK

I think the whole EU funding system is dodgy. We shouldn't let active politicians decide who should give and who should receive. That can only lead to frustration and clashes like the one we are seeing now.
Xavier, France

As much as I dislike siding with Tony Blair, and I dislike it a lot, I have to admit that his government has a point when requesting a complete review of the CAP in exchange for getting rid of the UK rebate. The CAP does advantage the French and should be sharply reduced. The French would have the added benefit of drinking cleaner water without all the fertilizers used by their farmers and funded by the EU.
Olivier Sarme, London, UK

Part of the reason the Dutch voted no to the constitution was the unfair economics of Europe. The Brits must realise it's not just discontent with the Euro or the joining of Turkey which has contributed to the anti-Europe sentiment. The rebate that Mrs Thatcher pulled is just as much part of it. So it's really about the basic question, do the British people want to be part of a united Europe or not?
Richard, LWD, Netherlands

There is no reason for UK to give up this "rebate". It is a very good opportunity to demand a total overhaul of the senseless EU budget and the foolish farming subsidies. No one should be living on subsidies.
Jan Andersson, Stockholm, Sweden

In a difficult situation where things must change Mr Blair has played a good hand.
Bert Duffill, Belvedere England

Yes it is about time that the whole EU funding system is reviewed. The EU was sold to the UK as a system where all member countries traded on equal terms. This is clearly not the case. Other countries not part of the EU have not only survived but prospered. The politicians say we are all better off due to the EU - if so where have all the manufacturing jobs gone? Why are so many companies moving production and service centres abroad?
Kim Godwin, St Andrews Scotland

The UK's demand for a rebate is like a millionaire who wants a giant tax reduction
Wouter Lee Hasselt, Belgium
The UK's demand for a rebate is like a millionaire who wants a giant tax reduction. It is normal that the UK, France, Germany and other wealthy countries pay more then they get back. That is called solidarity. If every country should receive as much as they give, what is the point in paying anything in the first place?
Wouter Lee Hasselt, Belgium

I am Irish and realize how well we did out of the original European Community. However I feel the UK has not done as well. The UK should not give up the rebate. The UK has contributed far more than its fellow members with far less in return.
James Crowley, Moncton, Canada

Rebate or no rebate, what is all the money we contribute actually being spent on? None of the politicians take much time to spell this out, perhaps because they worry about people's reaction.
J Groch, UK

The EU is a Franco-German alliance? What arrogance. Great-Britain runs it as well. What about sharing your rebate with the poor Dutch and Germans, who both pay more to the EU? To provide two of the most arrogant governments the world has ever seen with money they absolutely don't need; no wonder the Dutch voted 'no'.
Kim, Netherlands

Tell France and Mr Chirac to go away! I am all for fair play - when the French agree to reform the CAP and pay their way in this club then we can discuss the rebate. The arrogance of Chirac is just unbelievable
Stephen, London

I trust Tony Blair to keep his word on this as it is our interest. It is also one of the few occasions in which I agree with him that the EU does need a shake-up. I believe that a large-scale debate across Europe needs to be held amongst Europe's citizens, so that we may form a real constitution that will genuinely help the people and only the people. The solution, however is not to turn back and reduce the EU's importance; we still need to move forward.
Joshua, Poole, Dorset, UK

Despite name and location, I'm English. There are a lot of statistics being quoted concerning the UK rebate, but has anybody actually bothered to read the figures made available on this site? If anyone should be getting a rebate it's Germany and the countries who contribute a high per capita figure, because they're small, but rich. For example, the Netherlands.
Guy ,Montpellier

The rebate should not be given up unless there is a large reduction in the protectionist and nationalistic CAP
John Hart, Monmouth

We should give it up - we are a wealthy country and there are far more deserving countries in the EU who are desperately poor.
Jack, Essex

This is just a bit of political footwork from a couple of desperate has-beens. I don't believe that either Chirac or Schroeder think there is even a small chance that Britain will surrender the rebate. A bit of Brit-bashing will help deflect attention from the crisis over the EU constitution and might help with the domestic approval ratings of these unpopular leaders.
Neil Thorington, Basingstoke

I'm rather glad that M Chirac has inadvertently brought the CAP onto the political agenda. However, if Europe were to substantially reform the CAP it could put us at a great disadvantage to the USA - which also heavily subsidises its agriculture. This is a global issue, not just a European one.
Johnny W, Hull, England

I believe the British have an obligation to pay for the EU in the same way Germany and the Netherlands do. At the same time, France has to realise that it is a rich nation, and that it is unfair for them to use the CAP to get their own veiled rebate.
A Field, France

I'm a big fan of the EU, but this row over the UK rebate is ridiculous. In light of France's massive farming subsidy receipts, the French demand that the UK pay more money is a nonsense. I think its time to reduce those EU administration expenses: get rid of the second EU parliament in Strasburg
Eoin, Dublin, Ireland

Chirac and Schroeder should be given a special effects award. This is all smoke and mirrors.
Mark, Windsor, England

France is only interested in what is best for France
James, London
It seems to me that France is not interested in solidarity within the EU. France is only interested in what is best for France. The UK pays so much to the EU for what appears to be very little return. Cancelling the rebate is not good for the EU - it is good for France. Mr Chirac should think about reforming the French agricultural industry if he is really interested in EU solidarity.
James, London, UK

Of course we should keep our rebate. But Blair's real loyalty is to the EU and Brussels and not to the UK so I fully expect him to surrender the rebate.
Paul, UK

The topic of the EU (not just the rebate) is so powerful that even I, as a lifelong Tory voter, would not vote Tory if they elected a leader that was pro-EU, especially if Eurosceptic Gordon Brown was the alternative. Stand aside Mr Clarke before you do your party some serious damage.
Dave, Uxbridge

A month ago Tony Blair was written off as a dead duck. Suddenly, look at all these postings of support (and yes, I support his stance too!) But doesn't this show what a fickle lot we are. Next time every one lays in to him. maybe they should just stop and think about the bigger picture a bit more than they did at the last election.
ken, Bournemouth UK

The EU should be about countries working together and not about the redistribution of wealth between countries except in crisis situations. For many years the British have had the longest working hours in the EU so why should we be made had over our hard earned wealth to counties that operate say a 35 hour week? How can that be fair?
John Ley, High Wycombe, Bucks

All Europeans - the British included - need a rational approach to a fair budget review
David Gardner, London, UK
All Europeans - the British included - need a rational approach to a fair budget review. Adversarial brick-bats and name-calling may be good for tabloid headlines but don't help reach a sensible consensus. Yes, the UK rebate is an anomaly but the CAP is an anti-competitive dinosaur with production subsidies still dominant.
David Gardner, London, UK

The UK rebate resulted from the wholly unfair way in which EU finance operates. If a fair and transparent system could be agreed, then part of the agreement could be the UK giving up its rebate. But not until the system has been reformed.
Tim Watkins, Cardiff, Wales

If Blair gives an inch on this rebate without reform of the CAP, then the cries to leave the EU will begin in earnest.
Peter Usher, Brighton, England

Yes. It would show some commitment to Europe and the actual sum of money we're talking about is pocket change in national terms. Anyone who really thinks the rebate will make a difference to Britain's economy is delusional
Dan, London, UK

If being members of the EU is so good for our economy, shouldn't we be holding money-raising rock concerts for those outside the EU, such as the poor underdeveloped Swiss and the poverty-stricken Norwegians?
Nigel, Anglesey, Wales

In the last 20 years, what have we put in to Europe and actually got out? Does the UK carry on putting in and funding this political charade? There seem to be obvious benefactors and with enlargement more come to the feeding trough. Can someone explain the transparency of funding and what British citizens get out of this? Switzerland seems to do alright, no?
Simon Harper, London, UK

We pay 2.5 times more than France after a rebate. I think that we shouldn't get a rebate, we should simply pay less to begin with. How about we put in an amount commensurate with our respective GDP's. That would sound fair to me. I am bored of the British being singled out as the bad guys when it seems that we have to pay more to be a member of "their" club.
Alex Kinsman, London, England

I would back a symbolic gesture of unity towards the EU - we should give back our rebate. Of course - France should match that Euro for Euro. After all, how is it a gesture of unity if nobody else does it?
Iain Howe, Amsterdam, Netherlands

The French have a rebate as well - its called the CAP. Until they agree to total budget reform of the EU, asking us to give up the UK rebate is living in fantasy land. It astonishes me that Chirac actually has the nerve to make the demand!
Chris, London, UK

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