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The BBC's Justin Webb
"The Prime Minister has had his way"
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UK Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook
"We have made very good progress here"
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Elmar Brock, German MEP
"One or two votes... does not make any difference in terms of power, it is just a symbol"
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Monday, 11 December, 2000, 11:57 GMT
Blair hails Nice success
Robin Cook and Tony Blair
Robin Cook and Tony Blair see Nice as a success
Prime Minister Tony Blair says he has successfully guaranteed the best interests of Britain as the crucial European Union summit in Nice ends.

This summit has been an exercise for us in getting the best out of Europe for Britain and I believe we have succeeded

Prime Minister Tony Blair
He left the longest EU summit so far claiming victory in keeping the UK veto in key decision-making areas like taxation and social security, while increasing Britain's relative voting strength.

The deal was struck by EU leaders after five days of gruelling negotiations - leading Mr Blair to call on Monday for changes to the way summit business is done in future.

But though the prime minister hailed the "very successful" outcome to emerge from Nice, the Conservative Party has said it would not have signed up to the summit deal.

Treaty of Nice

The unratified Treaty of Nice, which is to be signed next year, apparently secures the UK's place as one of the "big four" in Europe alongside Germany, Italy and France.

It is all more political integration, deepening and tightening the integration of Europe, which is the wrong agenda

Shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude
Mr Blair said each member state had strongly defended its national corner but Britain had come out in a stronger position.

"So far as British national interest is concerned, this was a very successful summit in that we achieved everything we set out to achieve - for example on tax, social security, defence, more power for Britain in the EU.

"As far as Europe is concerned, we cannot do business like this in the future."

Mr Blair said the UK had willingly agreed to move from unanimity to qualified majority voting in key policy areas where it was to Britain's advantage - but had held firm on taxation and social security.

The prime minister also agreed to give up one of the UK's two commissioners in future - in exchange for a "substantial" re-weighting of the UK's voting power.

'No stitch-up'

The summit had pitted small countries against large ones as the EU struggled to streamline its decision-making procedures in preparation for enlargement by up to a dozen new members.

New voting allocation

France, Germany, Italy, UK : 29

Spain: 27
Netherlands: 13
Belgium, Greece, Portugal: 12
Sweden, Austria: 10
Denmark, Finland, Ireland: 7
Luxembourg: 4
Belgium had been the last country to resist a compromise proposal from the French EU presidency on the voting strengths of many of the smaller EU countries, including those which will join in the next few years.

Mr Blair rejected suggestions that the final outcome amounted to a stitch-up in which the bigger members took charge of Europe.

EU leaders agreed to extend qualified majority voting to at least 23 more decision-making areas, but Mr Blair said many were uncontentious issues - like decisions on the pension rights of certain high-ranking Eurocrats.

Others were directly in the UK's interests, he said, such as trade in financial services, where majority voting would stop protectionism holding back British business.

'Wrong agenda' - Maude

Mr Blair hit out at Eurosceptics who claimed he was giving away national sovereignty, saying Nice had been "an exercise in getting the best out of Europe for Britain".

French President Jacques Chirac
Mr Chirac tried to smooth the way in advance
Mr Blair will make a Commons statement to MPs about the outcome of the summit later on Monday.

Shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the Conservatives would not have signed the deal agreed in Nice.

"What's so disappointing about all this is it all goes in one direction.

"It is all more political integration, deepening and tightening the integration of Europe, which is the wrong agenda."

It had done "absolutely nothing" to make early enlargement possible, he added.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell insisted the summit outcome was not a triumph for the government, warning there remained "too many loose ends".

"The proper reaction to Nice is relief not rapture," he said.

"Failure to agree would have put the European Union into disarray and postponed enlargement indefinitely."

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See also:

11 Dec 00 | Europe
EU leaders reach agreement
07 Dec 00 | Nice summit glossary
Charter of Fundamental Rights
07 Dec 00 | Europe
Press gets Nice fever
06 Dec 00 | Europe
Schroeder plea for Nice accord
06 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Row over 'secret EU superstate'
09 Dec 00 | Europe
Mr Nice Guy
09 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Cook firm over tax veto
11 Dec 00 | Talking Politics
Nice summit: Q&A
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