UK blocks EU budget as Europeans reject pre-negotiation games with Downing Street
EUROPEAN REPRESENTATIVES were outraged at the UK’s blocking of the EU’s long-term budget, running until 2020, at an EU council meeting this week.
The move was condemned by Michel Barnier, the chief Brexit negotiator for the European Commission, in the European Parliament. He criticised the UK for “putting up roadblocks in the EU” before its exit.
Barnier spent the rest of the session debriefing MEPs on the EU’s guidelines for the Brexit negotiations, which are expected to meet the UK Government’s hard Brexit line with a hard EU line.
The EU budget and agreement over it is vital for investment across the EU bloc and the promotion of European projects and integration.
Boris Johnson earlier this month said that that in his view there was an argument that “the EU owes the UK money.”
The French diplomat said: “I would appreciate it if the United Kingdom would work in the spirit of agreement with the EU, rather than against it.”
“The subject of the EU budget has little to do with Brexit and everything to do with the future of the 27-country bloc.” Alain Lamassoure
According to the EU, the UK blocked the budget stating it had to wait until after the General Election on 8 June before making a decision. But European Parliamentary aides have told CommonSpace that they fear this is the first in a set of moves to drag out the UK’s obligations to the EU for past and current budgetary concerns.
French MEP Alain Lamassoure of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) group also criticised the UK’s delay to the approval of the budget saying: “There’s no reason for this delay or any games. Its [the budget’s] 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 of budgeting, 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.”
“We have to lay down a foundation of trust which we will need to construct the future relationship with the United Kingdom. A no deal will not be forced by us.” Michel Barnier
Michel Barnier also told lawmakers that he and they should firmly commit to refusing to launch negotiations on a future EU-UK free trade deal before seeing “significant progress” on the rights of EU nationals, the Irish border question and the settlement covering outstanding UK commitments to the EU.
“This is not done to create problems, or as some kind of punishment for the United Kingdom,” he said.
“It is there to solve problems and put them in the right order.”
“It is there to create the basis of trust,” he added.
“We have to lay down a foundation of trust which we will need to construct the future relationship with the United Kingdom. A no deal will not be forced by us.”
The European Commission also confirmed that the European Council President Donald Tusk would discuss the issue of the budget and Brexit relating negotiations with new French President Emmanuel Macron later today (Thursday 18 May) in Paris.
The UK Government reiterated that it would revisit the issue of the budget at “a better time.”
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