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21 Feb, 2020 20:52

‘We don’t need Britain to show disunity’: Franco-German split scuttles EU budget summit

‘We don’t need Britain to show disunity’: Franco-German split scuttles EU budget summit

Facing a 75 billion euro shortfall due to Brexit, the remaining EU members have been unable to agree on a 2021-2027 budget, with differences between two rival blocs coalescing around France and Germany too big to overcome.

France’s desire to preserve the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) matched the demands for continued development aid by the EU’s less wealthy members, but ran into determined opposition by Germany and the “frugal quartet” of Denmark, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands.

“Unfortunately, today… it was not possible to reach an agreement,” said Charles Michel, president of the European Council. “We need more time.”

Unable to reach a deal, the summit in Brussels fell apart on Friday evening, with no one knowing if and when the next one might take place.

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The “frugals” insisted that the new budget cannot exceed 1 percent of the EU’s gross national income (GNI), while ambitious members, like Hungary, were shooting for 1.3 percent. A compromise proposal involving approximately 1.074 percent of the GNI (or 1.094 trillion euros) was rejected in the end. 

“The differences were simply too big” for a deal, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters. “Even rough data of the new proposal was enough to show that this would not be enough to bridge the differences.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said he “deeply regrets” that a deal was not reached, adding that the failure of the summit shows “we don’t need Britain to show disunity.” The UK officially left the EU on January 31, along with what would have been an estimated 75 billion in contributions over the next seven years.

Belgian politician Guy Verhofstadt argued that the failure of the budget talks was yet another reason to centralize the EU and turn it into a proper “empire” with taxation powers of its own.

Germany and the “frugal” club demanded that any increases in spending go to new priorities such as climate change and managing migrant flows, but the proposal to dip into carbon emissions tax fund was roundly rejected. Merkel forced the EU’s hand on immigration in 2015, unilaterally opening Germany’s borders to migrants from the Middle East. Demands for other members to help absorb the migrants have been rejected by Hungary and Poland, among others.

The current EU budget, adopted in 2014, expires in December.

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