Tony Blair has recently suggested for the first time that scrapping the CAP is a British objective. Philippe Douste-Blazy, France's foreign minister, has said that France is happy to discuss the modernisation of Europe but not at the cost of the CAP 'one of our most successful common policies' (which it certainly has been for France).
The Commission would certainly not countenance the dismantling of the CAP and the renationalisation of farm policy. But there is real pressure to cut the CAP share of the EU budget and not at the expense of rural development policy. How could this be done? One possibility would be to introduce degressivity so that the CAP budget would be reduced year on year. One could also cap payments over a certain level. But this would hit large scale farmers and has been opposed in the past by Britain and Germany. Another possibility would be co-financing so that Pillar 1 expenditure would be partly met out of national budgets. However, such a big step towards renationalisation would be opposed by the Commission and also by national farm organisations who fear that national governments might not pay out their share in full.
As NFU policy director Martin Howarth has commented, 'Any way you look, the issue is in which way is the CAP budget to be cut.'