Germany and other net contributors to the EU budget will have to pay out more once the United Kingdom leaves the bloc, European Commissioner Günther Oettinger said in comments published yesterday (27 February).
Britain’s net contribution of some €9 billion could not be offset totally through future budget cuts, Oettinger told business daily Handelsblatt in an interview.
Germany, Europe’s largest economy, makes the largest net contribution to the EU budget each year at more than €15 billion.
According to an internal Finance Ministry report in September, Germany may have to contribute an extra €4.5 billion in 2019 and 2020, after Britain leaves.
Senior German government officials have said the EU budget must shrink if Britain’s contribution falls away.
Oettinger said the EU was considering further cuts to agricultural subsidies but it still needed more funds given other issues that Brussels wanted to take on, such as tackling the causes of migration and bolstering joint defence.
Former Prime Minister John Major warned the British government yesterday against peddling an “over-optimistic” view of Brexit and urged ministers to show “a little more charm” in forthcoming EU negotiations.
In a broadside against current Prime Minister Theresa May, the former Conservative leader also said it was time to stop attacks on those who disagreed with her vision of a hard break with the European Union.
“I have watched with growing concern as the British people have been led to expect a future that seems to be unreal and over-optimistic,” Major said in a speech at the Chatham House think tank.
“Obstacles are brushed aside as of no consequence, whilst opportunities are inflated beyond any reasonable expectation of delivery.”
Major said he saw little to suggest that Britain would make up for leaving Europe’s single market with trade deals outside the bloc, and warned that “those most likely to be hurt will be those least able to protect themselves”.
Just weeks before May’s self-imposed deadline for starting Brexit talks by the end of March, the former leader also urged a different tone.
“A little more charm, and a lot less cheap rhetoric, would do much to protect the UK’s interests,” he said.
May cannot trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, starting a two-year countdown to the divorce, without parliamentary approval.
A short bill empowering her to start the negotiations cleared the House of Commons last month, but on Monday members of the upper House of Lords began debating changes that could cause a delay.
The first crunch vote could come on Wednesday (1 March) on an amendment to guarantee the rights of more than three million Europeans currently living in Britain.
Another is expected next week on enshrining into law the government’s promise to give parliament a vote on the final Brexit deal.
Government supporters have warned the chamber risks abolition if it is obstructive but a Lords source in the opposition Labour party told AFP that May was on course to “lose handsomely”.
If peers succeed in amending the legislation, it will have to go back to the Commons for approval, making May’s end-of-March deadline very tight.
May’s Conservatives have a majority in the House of Commons, but the party has just 252 peers out of around 800 in the House of Lords.
Former minister Michael Heseltine is among the Tory rebels who could join Labour and the pro-European Liberal Democrat party in backing moves to give parliament a final vote.
Heseltine even suggested Britain could reverse its decision if the public mood changes before it leaves the EU.
“My opponents will argue that the people have spoken, the mandate secured and the future cast. My experience stands against this argument,” he wrote in the Mail on Sunday.