Britain’s Rebate: on the Table Again
The starting bell has sounded on another round in the long-running fight between France and Britain over the annual rebate the UK receives from the European Union. With each new round come new tactics, and this time the French are fighting downright dirty. Nevertheless, the chances of Britain acquiescing on the issue are slim.
The end result of this new round of conflict will be greater division between Britain and its counterparts across the Channel.
Each year, Britain is handed back two thirds of its net contribution to Brussels. Margaret Thatcher secured the monetary rebate from the EU in 1984 after noting how little Britain received from the EU compared to the massive amounts of money it paid to the Union. The healthy rebate, amounting to over €4 billion for Britain annually, is an important instrument British politicians use to placate the concerns of a euroskeptic British public.
The Financial Times in Britain reported February 1 that France has told Gordon Brown, the UK chancellor of the exchequer and likely soon-to-be prime minister, that he must hand over part of Britain’s EU budget rebate, or it will veto his plan to tackle a multi-billion-euro cross-border vat fraud, a plan that must be approved by fellow EU member states. The tactics being used by the French are being supported by more than a few nations across the Continent.
“France’s decision to link the two unrelated issues is a classic example of EU horse-trading, but Paris is being egged on by other countries angered by Mr Brown’s attempt to cut Britain’s payments to the European budget” (ibid.). France, with support from a collection of European nations, is using blackmail to pressure Britain into giving up its rebate. While France has denied linking the two issues, the Times reported that “five diplomats from different countries” told the paper that Paris had warned Mr. Brown that it “expects him to end his one-man stand on the rebate if he wants France to do the UK a favor on fighting tax fraud.”
As Paris enters a new round of conflict with Britain over its EU rebate, the powers in Brussels are coincidently (or not) also talking about pressuring Britain on the issue. Brussels is beginning to fulfill the agreement between EU leaders in 2005 to review all aspects of the EU budget, and the British rebate appears to be one of the first issues on the agenda. According to EUobserver.com, EU budget commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite recently told Spain’s El Pais newspaper that Brussels wants to get rid of the British rebate, and that “the British [rebate] check is a distortion for the own resources of the EU.”
Across the Continent, EU officials continue to toe the line that the British rebate threatens the European dream. All of Europe seems to be against Britain on the issue. This whole affair is another instance of Britain being isolated from the EU. The rebate issue is furthering the inherent and historic wedge between European nations and Britain.
The Trumpet has said it for years, but we’ll say it again: Britain will soon cease to be a part of the European Union. Watch for frustration and anger toward Britain to fester. The time is approaching when Britain will leave the European Union—or be kicked out.