Agreement on a final budget deal at summit is unlikely, says Mette Frederiksen, Danish PM
As sources predicted a potential early close in Brussels, the European council president, Charles Michel, came under criticism for aiming “far too high” with a proposed budget of 1.074% of the bloc’s gross national income (€1.094tn).
One EU diplomat said on Friday morning: “He wanted enough cash to buy a Range Rover; we only have the money for a Volkswagen – and worst of all he asked Mutti [the German chancellor, Angela Merkel] to pay for the Range Rover.”
EU officials insisted that the negotiations would continue, as leaders prepared to meet again at midday central European time. But the Danish prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, told reporters as she arrived that it appeared unlikely that EU leaders would reach a final budget deal at the summit.
“I’m prepared to stay the whole weekend, but no, I don’t think we are going to reach an agreement,” she said, adding that leaders would probably require another meeting in March.
The 27 heads of state and government had been expected to talk at least into Saturday, and possibly through the weekend, on the multi-financial framework, setting funding from 2021 to 2027 for the EU’s programmes from agriculture to space, defence and regional development.
Sources said that such was the deadlock that it would be likely to end on Friday afternoon unless Michel delivered a significantly revised proposal.
The self-styled “frugals” – the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark – are insisting on a budget of no more than 1% of the EU’s gross national income, and retention of their rebates.
On the first evening of the summit on Thursday, Merkel had joined the group of leaders by insisting Germany would also retain its full rebate for the seven-year period.
Arriving at the summit on Friday morning, Andrej Babiš said that unless those leaders changed their minds, “we can go straight home”. The Czech prime minister said: “They propose that all states pay €75bn less into the budget than is proposed.”
Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, has led the charge of the frugal states against the more expansive demands of the so-called “friends of cohesion” group, who are the largest recipients of funds for the development of the EU’s poorest countries.
The Netherlands claims Michel’s proposal would increase its contributions by 20%.
Emmanuel Macron had appealed to fellow leaders not to allow Brexit to derail the EU’s spending ambitions, as he aimed to secure extra cash for French farmers.