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Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 18:21 GMT
France puts summit on ice
Tony Blair
Tony Blair had a "vigorous exchange" with Chirac
France has postponed an Anglo-French summit following a row between UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac.

The move is being seen as a snub to Mr Blair, who reportedly fell out with Mr Chirac over the French President's resistance to reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

The summit had been due to take place in December but was cancelled earlier on Tuesday by French officials.

Number 10 said "in the light of the last few days" the French move "did not come as a total shock".

But the spokesman was not aware of French officials needing "more time" to make arrangements, as has been claimed.

He also warned France that the days of "pre-cooked" European Union summit deals were over.

No new date

This was a pointed reference to President Chirac's deal with Germany to limit - rather than scrap - CAP subsidies to EU farmers, which is understood to have sparked the showdown in the first place.

Mr Blair wants root and branch reform of the CAP to pay for expansion of the EU in 2004.

But Mr Chirac has called for the UK's 2bn a year EU rebate to be scrapped instead.

Number 10 earlier insisted the row with the French was solely restricted to farm subsidies and would not affect progress on other issues such as Iraq.

But no new date has been set for the Anglo French summit, which was due to include discussion of Iraq, immigration and British beef.

'United States of Europe'

The row comes as a controversial blueprint for the future of Europe - including proposals for dual citizenship with member states - was unveiled.

One of the options in the document is rebranding the European Union as "The United States of Europe", with the European Community or United Europe as possible alternatives.

Valery Giscard D'Estaing
Giscard D'Estaing is chairing reform planning
The plan, which includes a draft European constitution, was hailed by Valery Giscard D'Estaing, the former French president heading up the convention on the EU's future, as similar to the work of the founding fathers of the US.

But it was attacked by Eurosceptics as a plan for an undemocratic, federal Europe.

David Heathcoat-Amory, the Conservative representative on Mr D'Estaing's convention, called it "a very dangerous document indeed", which took power away from voters.

The former Tory minister told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think there is an embryonic European state here.

"The government will deny that, but that's clearly the direction in which we are going and it is going to make the so-called democratic deficit even greater."

Super-state rejected

Peter Hain, the former Europe minister made Welsh Secretary last week, said the UK was firmly against plans to rename Europe.

Mr Hain told Today: "United States of Europe, frankly, is not on. We won't accept that."

The UK was also against "dual citizenship", he said.

But rather than paving the way for a "super-state", the draft proposals unveiled on Monday actually "anchored the European Union to the nation state", he argued.

Mr Hain added: "I think we should just approach this in a practical common sense fashion, remembering that Europe is a partnership of sovereign nation states, not a big super-state in Brussels."

That was a stance underlined by Number 10, which said the UK would be concentrating on the "primacy of nation states."

UK outmanoeuvred?

Mr Hain, who remains the UK government's representative on the convention on the future of Europe, also attempted to play down the row between Mr Blair and Mr Chirac.

"The truth is we got an outcome at Brussels, and Tony Blair ensured we did, not by being rude to anyone, but by straightforward, strong negotiation," he told Today.

Mr Hain also denied the row was being exaggerated by Downing Street to cover up the fact that Mr Blair had been outmanoeuvred by France and Germany on farm subsidies.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jon Sopel
"This is a snub and there's no other way to describe it"

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See also:

29 Oct 02 | Politics
28 Oct 02 | Europe
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24 Oct 02 | Europe
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