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Friday, December 11, 1998 Published at 10:14 GMT

UK Politics

UK will retain EU rebate - Blair

Tony Blair: Will not negotiate rebate away

The UK will not give up its rebate from the European budget, Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

Robin Oakley: Battle resumes over Euro finances in the run-up to the admission of new member states
Mr Blair is meeting European leaders at the EU summit in Vienna where discussion is expected to centre on European funding, including moves to end the UK's £2bn a year budget rebate.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Blair said he would stand firm over the budget - money returned to Britain from Brussels under an agreement secured by then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

He said: "We are not negotiating the rebate away because the reason for the rebate still exists and it shouldn't be negotiated away because it is justified.

"It is justified because otherwise Britain would be paying a quite disproportionate and unfair amount into the European Union.

[ image: European leaders are meeting in Vienna]
European leaders are meeting in Vienna
"That's the reason why the rebate was brought into existence and that's the reason it should stay."

He denied Britain's attempts to postpone the abolition of duty free goods was to divert attention from other issues such as the rebate.

Mr Blair denied he was following in the footsteps of former Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major in refusing to discuss the rebate at the summit.

Prime Minister Tony Blair: "We are not negotiating the rebate away"
He said it was a myth that Britain was the only country which stood up for itself.

The prime minister went on to attack the press, saying stories in the British media about Britain being isolated in Europe were untrue.

A joint defence paper with France, a paper on social exclusion with Sweden and one on tax harmonisation with Germany, were proof of Britain's strength in Europe.

Mr Blair said: "We are stronger in Europe probably than any point in time for many years."

'Retreat or stay firm'

Mr Blair also dismissed media stories about tax harmonisation.

He said: "As far as I'm aware, nobody is proposing that you have the same corporate and income tax rates across Europe.

"Yes, there are people with a very forward position on tax harmonisation but the vast majority of people in Europe are with us, not against us."

Mr Blair said for Europe to succeed in the future there had to be economic reform.

He said: "Our choice as a country, is either to retreat back into the years of Conservative diplomacy and be at the margins of Europe where get nothing out of Europe, we're effectively on our way out of Europe

"Or we stay firm and engage in the debate about Europe and we win it, as indeed we did over the beef ban."

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11 Dec 98†|†UK
Blair to fight for duty-free

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