|Quoting 777236ER (Reply 6):|
Britain is the second largest per capita contributer to the EU, and isn't the second largest economy
Well, not quite. The UK and France are pretty much at level pegging, and a lot of it depends on where in the economic cycle each country is. Though it is fair to say that the UK will overtake France on a slightly more permanent basis (in the medium term) in the next two or three years unless France's growth rate dramatically improves. So, saying the UK is the second largest economy in the EU is pretty much fair comment.
However, that minor point aside, you are entirely correct to point up the disparity in what the UK gets back. This isn't a modern thing either, even when the UK's economy was about as healthy as a graveyard, and France was doing extremely well, the French still received far more of the pot back, mainly through the CAP. It was this, of course, that led Thatcher to bang her handbag on the table saying "I want my money back".
This particular "request" from Chirac comes agains the backdrop of the Commission wishing their budget to be increased from 1% of GDP to 1.8% of GDP, something the main paymasters (i.e. Germany, Holland and the UK) have told them to get stuffed about. This is the French gambit to head off any proposed increase whilst still giving the Commission a £3 billion budget increase without France paying a penny more. A pretty reasonable outcome, if you are French. So, it's just politics, and the usual horsetrading.
Chirac knows damn well that there's more chance of walking to the moon than the UK agreeing to this. Quite simply, any
movement by the Blair government, just before the election, would be political suicide. Given the less than stellar repuation of the EU in Britain, the prospect of coughing up an extra £3 billion would go down like a lead balloon in the UK. So, naturally, the Tories and demanding an absolute guarantee that the rebate is not up for grabs. Anything less than that categorical guarantee, and you can see the election posters already.
Chirac, though he would love to get the rebate, wants something else. He's working on the basis that if Britain refuses to give this up, they'll have to agree to something else that he wants.
She's as nervous as a very small nun at a penguin shoot.