Britain ready to bear burden of EU expansion

Britain's PM expressed strong support for EU enlargement, telling the House of Commons that it was right and essential for the country to pay a fair share of its costs.

During a tense summit in Belgium, Tony Blair won approval Saturday of a final blueprint for a 2007-2013 EU budget by offering to slash Britain's lucrative rebate and turn the savings over to the 10 countries that joined the bloc last year. The expansion included central and eastern European countries such as Poland, which were once part of the Warsaw Pact.

"The fact is that if we support and indeed drive through a policy of ending the postwar division of Europe, we have to be ready to accept our fair share of the cost of that policy," Blair said.

In exchange for agreeing to the deal, Blair asked members of the bloc to agree to a spending review in 2008-09 that could lead to cuts in massive agricultural subsidies. France benefits significantly from farm subsidies.

British opposition leaders have attacked Blair for agreeing to a budget that gives up some of Britain's multibillion-pound (euro, dollar) rebate without securing a promise to slash the EU's massive agricultural subsidies.

The budget now has to be approved by the European Parliament. Blair is scheduled to negotiate with parliament leaders on Tuesday to try and win their approval for the spending plan, according to the AP.


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