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Europe

Ministers Clash on EU Budget

Britain seems increasingly isolated in its bid to keep the €4.6 billion ($5.97 billion) a year that it receives back from the EU budget.

During a discussion over the EU budget from 2007-2013 on Tuesday, there was "great consensus, apart from the UK of course, that there is no need for the British rebate," according to French diplomats. But British Chancellor Gordon Brown continues to insist that the rebate is "fully justified." And the clash promises to hold up progress on the already thorny issue of EU funding, since Britain retains a veto over the rebate. Brown presented figures to his fellow ministers showing that, even without the rebate, Britain would have been a leading net contributor to EU coffers. However, French sources insist, "the situation is different to 1984," when the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously won the rebate, which has been staunchly defended ever since. EU leaders hope to reach agreement on the next EU budgetary period by next year. But history shows that it is never an easy process and a German diplomat recently predicted that the talks over the budget would be more difficult than the tangles over the Constitution. (EUobserver.com)

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