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Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 01:04 GMT
Blair 'marginalised' over farm reform
Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac in Brussels
Blair and Chirac did not see eye-to-eye

Tony Blair has made a bit of a reputation as the man who is always smooth and polite and mostly gets his way at European summit meetings.

But bad European Union arguments are almost always about large amounts of money.

And the UK prime minister's stinging bust-up with French president Jacques Chirac over farm reform has left him more marginalised at a European summit meeting than he has been for a very long time.

The UK wants more done to reduce the cost of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), which accounts for just over half of all EU spending.


Of course the French are going to want to take action against the British abatement, just as we want to take action on the Common Agricultural Policy

UK prime minister Tony Blair
But the French are trying to halt reform in return for accepting that spending on the CAP will not continue to rise as the EU expands.

Although Mr Blair has made progress, the issue remains unresolved.

The problem for him is that the French and Germans are really back together again as the motor in Europe.

It has been a very difficult couple of days for Mr Blair.

Deciding Europe's future

Nonetheless, Mr Blair and Mr Chirac are grown-up politicians and they have to get on over all sorts of issues, including Iraq.

There are some bigger issues coming up in the long-term too, particularly the convention charged with drawing up a grand constitution for the European Union.

Former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who is heading up the convention, laid out his ideas on Monday and talked about plans for the next 20 to 50 years.

This is a crucial matter for all European politicians and it is one of those things where Tony Blair and the leaders of other big countries, notably France and Germany, really have to hang together.

If they do not, they are going to end up with exactly the kind of super-federalist structure run by a commission in Brussels that they, and more importantly perhaps their electorates, are so afraid of.


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