Neighbours at odds

BRITAIN and France, the neighbours divided by the English channel, have always shared an uneasy relationship. Over the centuries, a clash of interests and approaches has kept them apart and acutely suspicious of each other. Now the Big Two of Europe are attacking each other with small arms over the question of European Union rebate for Britain. The historic concession, hard fought and won by the former prime minister Margaret Thatcher to balance Britain’s contribution to EU, is now being questioned by many in the union, most notably by France.

President Jacques Chirac of France is trying to project himself as a champion of EU cause although his own people recently snubbed him by throwing out the European constitution. Britain is right to defend its rebate. If it is deprived of the special concession, the country will end up spending more than any other country in the union. So British Prime Minister Blair is justified in rejecting the demand by Chirac and others for a freeze on the rebate for Britain. It is estimated that the rebate freeze for 2007-13 would have cost the UK between 25-30bn euros. This, of course, would be unacceptable to the British and put them further off the idea of European Union. As it is, opposition to EU and the proposed constitution in Britain is growing by the day. Under the circumstances, no British leader worth his salt would be able to accept the freezing of EU rebate for UK.

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