Press release

Number 10 Press Briefing - Afternoon From 15 September 2010

From the Prime Minister's spokesperson on: European Council, spending review and Cardinal's comments.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

European Council

Asked about the proposed trade agreement with Pakistan and whether the EU would look to enhance Pakistan’s trading relationship with the EU through tariffs with the country, the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) told the assembled press that it may be the case that we could do specific things for Pakistan which would benefit them in the short term.

There was a system called the Generalised System of Preferences whereby countries outside the EU were given enhanced access to EU markets and we would like to see over time, Pakistan brought into that group.

Asked what sort of countries were in the group already, the PMS replied that there were several Central and South American countries as well as others in Europe and Asia, such as Armenia and Azerbaijan.

When asked what ‘ehanced access’ meant, the PMS said it meant greater access to EU markets.  There was a range of barriers to trade at the present time and although there was a free trade area within the EU, there were often tariff and non-tariff barriers that prevented other countries from exporting to the UK.

Asked which countries were wary of this agreement going ahead and whether the UK was telling others that Pakistan was in a delicate position politically and it was in everyone’s interests to boost them economically, the PMS said that he would not comment on any specific countries.  There was a challenging economic backdrop and this was when the voices of protectionism grew louder.  The PMS said pushing this agenda at this time was difficult, but was an important part of the EU’s role.

Asked what the Prime Minister thought about the High Representative and how she was carrying out her job, the PMS replied that the Prime Minister though she was doing a very good job.

When asked if the Prime Minister was disappointed that the 28 diplomats appointed by Baroness Ashton did not include anyone who was British, the PMS said that it was a matter for the Commission.

Asked how quickly new arrangements could be put in place in terms of trade agreements, the PMS said that we would have to see how far we could get tomorrow.  The PMS said we anticipated a reasonably difficult discussion.

Spending Review

Asked if the Prime Minister believed the figure of £4 billion of extra savings quoted by the Chancellor, as Iain Duncan Smith clearly didn’t, the PMS replied that the Chancellor had said “several billion pounds” of additional welfare savings.  There was a spending review negotiation ongoing.

Put that it could be more than £4 billion, the PMS said that he would not speculate about the outcome of the spending review and would wait until be knew what the answer was.

Cardinal’s Comments

Put that a Cardinal who was originally supposed to be accompanying the Pope was now not coming due to comments he had made referring to the UK as a “third world country”, the PMS said that he hadn’t seen the comments but would look into it.

Published 15 September 2010