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Friday, 17 November, 2000, 12:56 GMT
EU veto loss 'in national interest'
Robin Cook
Robin Cook: "Majority voting has helped Britain"
With a key Euro-summit just a fortnight away the UK government has been arguing that giving up the British veto over some areas of policy-making in the union could be good for the country.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook also stressed that in areas such as tax and social security, the veto would be retained.

Putting the case for more majority decisions in the EU as it prepares for enlargement, Mr Cook said: "Directives on banking and insurance that helped the City were opposed by other countries, which would have blocked them if they had had a veto."

Tony Blair with Gerhard Schroeder
Tony Blair and Gerhard Schroeder: "Positive talks"
"Where, case by case, we believe we can promote the national interest by majority voting, we will agree to it."

Mr Cook's comments came in an article for the The Daily Telegraph newspaper on Friday in which he continued the government's offensive on Europe ahead of next month's gathering in Nice.

A Downing Street spokesman said the single market and transport were both likely areas in which veto powers could be relinquished.

The spokesman added that the government was also prepared to give up its veto on some environmental matters where it would be to the UK's advantage.

But he said Prime Minister Tony Blair would put Britain's interests "first, second and third" at the Nice summit and would negotiate hard.

Meanwhile Mr Blair continued preparations for the summit by holding three hours of talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and a video conference with French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

The talks with Mr Schroeder were described as "detailed and positive" and having covered the full range of issues to be discussed in Nice.

The spokesman added that Mr Blair's video conference with Mr Jospin was "very friendly and constructive".

Alleged cabinet rift

On Thursday the government was faced with renewed accusations of a split in policy towards the euro following reports that Peter Mandelson had described pro-Europeans as having made strategic errors.

The Northern Ireland secretary, one of the strongest pro-European voices in Mr Blair's cabinet, made the remarks at a private dinner.

He apparently told the gathering that solely economic arguments should not be used to persuade the public to back the euro.

On Friday Mr Mandelson was quoted in The Times newspaper as saying: "As I have said before, I do not believe there is any point in expending political capital on the issue of the single currency before the proposition is ready to be put.

"It is desirable for us to set out the political and economic case for Europe, but the next election will not be fought on the single currency."

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See also:

16 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Mandelson queries euro strategy
14 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Blair's 'patriotic' European vision
14 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Blair rules out 'European superstate'
13 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Blair plays down EU rights charter
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