THE FIRST GREAT SERVICE DAVID CAMERON CAN DO HIS COUNTRY:

Blair too weak to win deal, says Chirac (David Rennie in Brussels and Anton La Guardia in Barcelona, 29/11/2005, Daily Telegraph)

In an attempt to break the deadlock over the next EU budget, the Prime Minister is proposing to slash nearly £17 billion from an earlier budget proposal that failed to find agreement in June. The British plan represents a cut of £120 billion from an initial spending plan put forward by the European Commission.

Most of the pain will be felt by the 10 newest members of the EU, mostly ex-Communist states, because the budget preserves both agricultural subsidies championed by France and the multi-billion pound annual British rebate. But as Mr Blair prepared to fly to eastern Europe this week to sell his scaled-down budget as being in the “true interest” of the new member states, Mr Chirac poured cold water on the chances of a deal by Britain, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU until the end of the year.

Speaking a few rooms from where Mr Blair was giving the closing press conference at a summit of European and Mediterranean countries in Barcelona, Mr Chirac said: “The United Kingdom has a very difficult mission. It is relatively isolated on the financial perspective.”

Now would be the perfect moment for Tory leadership–if they had any yet–to step forward and say that no deal is better than one on French terms. If it breaks the EU, so be it.

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