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Brown puts Britain ahead of Brussels to control public spending.

Chancellor Gordon Brown yesterday welcomed European Union recognition that levels of public spending are matters for national exchequers and not for Brussels.

Finance Ministers meeting in Luxembourg vetoed a European Commission bid to include a ceiling on national spending in its economic policy guidelines for the EU.

The Commission was rebuffed on taxes too, with Mr Brown, who took a brief break from the election campaign to attend the talks, supporting a Spanish attack on plans to harmonise VAT rates on energy across member states.

The Chancellor is determined to keep domestic taxes on household fuel out of the Commission's grasp, and believes that Brussels should not set any energy taxes at least until there is a genuine open market in energy in the EU.

Even then, the extent of the Commission's role in fixing rates should be severely limited, he says.

EU single market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein told yesterday's meeting that only the 'convergence' of energy tax rates in member states could end distortions of competition in energy products.

The European Commission yesterday faced demands for a major overhaul of the beleaguered Common Fisheries Policy in the face of the threatened collapse of major fish stocks and the decline of the community's hard-pressed trawler fleet.

The Common Fisheries Policy came under attack at the start of a three-day public hearing in Brussels on how to save the fishing sector.

The hearing was also considering the issue of replenishing vital fishing waters, which have been stripped of valuable stocks and are currently close to the limits of recovery.

The Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler warned that the fisheries sector faced 'a spiral of decline'.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 6, 2001
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