Europe - Time to tax French cheese?
UPDATE: You can now see the entire 17 minute interview I did with Mr Osborne on Eurostar - including the bits that didn't make it on to the TV and radio bulletins - below:
UPDATE 2.50pm: The chancellor could have been even less diplomatic about the idea of a financial transactions tax or what some call a Robin Hood tax.
He told his European colleagues to stop wasting their time with the idea; said he'd only back it if it was a global tax - something he called "fanciful"; and insisted that the banks would not pay it, but pensioners would.
Yesterday in the Commons the prime minister suggested that the idea was "cover... to get off the fact that they (the Europeans) have not met their targets for overseas development assistance". He went on to point out that "it is worth bearing in mind the fact that around 80% of it would be raised from businesses in the United Kingdom".
His killer suggestion followed. He was, he said, "sometimes tempted to ask the French whether they would like a cheese tax".
A cue, surely, for Tory Eurosceptic backbenchers to set up a campaign?
UPDATE 1.15pm: I've just learnt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has delayed his return to London from Brussels this lunchtime after a row over proposals for a financial transaction tax at today's meeting of European Finance Ministers.
According to sources Mr Osborne asked what was the point in even having a conversation about the financial transaction tax given that it was going to be rejected. He then asked if it was "the best way to spend our time".
I understand that the Chancellor said no bank would end up paying the tax and the final payer would be pensioners.
I hope to get more when I interview him in the next couple of hours.
TUESDAY 12.30pm: Today all eyes are on Rome. A few days ago it was Athens. None, though, are watching Brussels with any expectation of a solution to the eurozone crisis.
Odd really when the EU's finance ministers are meeting here again this morning after a meeting last night of the Eurozone finance ministers.
You might imagine that Europe's politicians would have worked through the night to find a solution. You'd be wrong. Last night I saw Señor Tremonti, Italy's finance minister, drinking at the bar at one of the top hotels in this city well before ten o'clock. The name of the hotel was "Amigo". Perhaps it was meant as a comfort to a man who found few friends here. Mr Tremonti flew home this morning to discover whether he and his Prime Minister can survive in their jobs.
One veteran Brussels watcher told me that the emotion in this town has moved through anger, fear and despair and has now reached resignation.
It's now clear that at the G20 summit last week, the rest of the world told the Eurozone to "sort out your own problems before coming to us for help". I'm told that one of China's leaders remarked: "It can't be that serious as the Germans aren't putting in their own money."
The Germans, in turn, have resisted the pressure to do more, insisting that they will not cough up again until Greece and Italy show that they are serious about getting their deficits under control.
So, where does this leave Britain? The short answer is: deeply frustrated. This is George Osborne's 9th international meeting in just 8 weeks. The deadline he set - "six weeks to save the Euro" - has passed. It is just three weeks until he must stand up in the House of Commons to deliver his Autumn Statement and unveil the forecasts which will reveal how far and fast - or not - Britain is expected to grow and whether - or not - he is on course to meet his deficit reduction targets.
Arriving at today's meeting he declared that: "The Eurozone needs to show the world it can stand behind its currency and we can't just wait for developments in Athens and Rome - we've also got to make progress here in Brussels."
He knows, though, that there will be very little progress today. His friend and ally, Sweden's finance minister Anders Borg, said what Mr Osborne thinks but chooses not to say: "There is a credibility problem. Europe is running dry in credibility"
PS: I will be interviewing the Chancellor today. My interview will be posted here later this afternoon.