PRIME Minister Tony Blair was facing defeat in crisis talks on the notorious EU Common Agricultural policy in Brussels today, a matter of great interest to farmers in the Yorkshire Dales who are already facing a bleak Christmas because of chaos in the funding payment system.
When Britain took over the presidency of the union six months ago, Mr Blair pledged that he would reform the policy, which spends more than 40% of all EU income on farm subsidies although farming employs only 4% of the population.
The system is already being reformed in Britain - although farmers here have yet to receive any payments under the new rules. But other agricultural countries, mainly France backed by Ireland and some of the newly admitted Eastern European states, are fighting reform tooth and nail.
Today's talks are the last major event of Britain's presidency and should they end in failure, it will be another body blow to the Prime Minister's reputation, so officials were hard at work early this morning trying to find a compromise.
Whatever happens, it will be a long time before Dales farmers feel much benefit: they have received no grant payments this year and are unlikely to do so until next spring at the earliest.