Author: Aline Robert, translated by Samuel White
Adopted after bitter wrangling by the European Parliament last December, the revision of the EU’s long-term budget for 2014-2020 has now been blocked by the United Kingdom, which seems intent on laying obstacles on the EU’s road. EURACTIV France reports.
“I would appreciate it if the United Kingdom would work in the spirit of agreement with the EU, rather than against it,” said Michel Barnier, the head of the EU’s Brexit negotiating team.
Barnier was in the European Parliament on Wednesday (17 May) for a plenary debrief and debate with MEPs on the latest EU summit meeting, which formally adopted the EU’s guidelines for the Brexit negotiation.
This exercise exposed just how deep a divide will need to be bridged in the upcoming divorce talks. Between the EU’s financial demands and the UK’s categorical refusals, the stage is set for a dramatic showdown.
London is heaping pressure on the EU-27 to back down on its financial demands by blocking a number of proposals currently on the table: the joint military HQ and the revision of the so-called Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), which governs the EU budget over a seven-year period.
Covering the period 2014-2020, the current MFF has to undergo a mid-term review to ensure it is fit for the many exceptional circumstances facing the bloc, such as the refugee crisis and various security challenges.
The European Commission originally proposed an unambitious revision, last September, groping around for unspent funds to avoid having to ask member states for higher contributions. The European Parliament then had its say in December 2016, dragging the bar a little higher.
But the dossier has since been blocked in the Council, first by Italy and now by the UK, which says it has to wait until after its 8 June election before it can make a decision one way or anther.
“I raised this subject with the Maltese presidency,” said Jean Arthuis, the president of the Parliament’s Committee on Budgets. “The minister of the interior who was present did not seem to know anything about it.”
French MEP Alain Lamassoure (EPP group) also criticised the delay to the approval of the MFF, saying, “its main objective is to bring the necessary flexibility to finance the policies that do not concern, or will no longer concern, the UK”.
The subject of the EU budget has little to do with Brexit and everything to do with the future of the 27-country bloc.
“We would like to begin the work on the next phase, for after 2020, but we cannot start blindfolded. And then we have to shift gears. We are in this absurd situation where 85% of the budget is spent through automatic redistribution mechanisms such as the CAP and cohesion funds, and then the functioning of the EU absorbs a share of what is left, so that we are left with only symbolic amounts to channel into real policies,” said Arthuis.
This is a subject that may well be discussed between Emmanuel Macron and Council President Donald Tusk on Thursday in Paris.