EU leaders in ‘very tough’ budget summit amid ‘Brexit gap’

A view of the empty place of the Union Jack-British flag at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET / POOL

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EU leaders are to hold a Brussels summit Thursday to set a seven-year budget despite splits between some stingy rich nations, poorer ones wanting to preserve spending and others wanting to fund grand global ambitions.

The money tussle, hard-fought at the best of times, is especially problematic this time around because of Britain’s departure from the EU. The “Brexit gap” caused by the loss of the UK’s contribution is 75 billion euros over the 2021-2027 period.

Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden want to rein in the budget and make up only some of the ground of the Brexit gap. They also want to keep their rebates, as does Germany.

Agriculturally sensitive countries such as France, Spain and Poland are also looking to preserve farmers’ subsidies. France would like to also see extra money for common security and defence and the “unfair” rebates scrapped.

The European Commission, which aims for a “geopolitical” mantle under President Ursula von der Leyen, is trying for a target of 1.13 trillion euros.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the eve of the summit predicted “very tough and difficult negotiations” around the table.

The talks are expected to be so strained that some of the 27 EU delegations are preparing for the summit to drag out into the weekend.

A few EU sources, however, suggested differences over the budget are so great the summit could end quickly and the can kicked down the road to another summit — or two — in the coming months.

These negotiations are always challenging, tending to pit net payers against net beneficiaries.

This time, the talks are further complicated by the departure of the UK, which was a large net contributor.

The talks are about the EU’s long-term budget or financial framework. It will set out the total spending level and the amount to be spent on particular areas over the next seven years.

The current framework runs to the end of this year, so the new one will cover the period up to 2027.

Read more via BBC/The Financial Times/The Irish Times




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