Wednesday

26th Jun 2019

Britain's EU rebate called into question

  • Schulz (l), Verhofstadt (c) and Daul (r). The British rebate is a contentious topic every time the multi-annual EU budget comes up for renewal (Photo: European Parliament)

The largest party in the European Parliament, the centre-right European People's Party, has said Britain's annual rebate from the EU should be reconsidered following London's "selfish" behaviour at last week's summit.

"I believe that the British rebate should be put into question. Our taxpayers' money should be used for things other than rewarding selfish and nationalistic attitudes," said EPP leader Joseph Daul, referring to London's decision last week to block full-blown treaty change to tighten fiscal rules.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The UK rebate - which has assumed totemic status in the British public's imagination - sees London get back billions of euros each year (about £5 billion) from the EU budget, a concession won by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s to balance what the UK pays into EU coffers.

Shrill debate about the merits of the rebate is a fixture of discussions preceding each of the seven-year EU budget cycles. Normally shrugged off by Britain, the forthcoming money debate for the 2014-2021 period is different because MEPs for the first time have the right to approve the budget.

Tuesday's plenary debate saw MEPs unleash much of the pent-up anger about what many politicians in Brussels see as Britain's permanently lukewarm view of the EU.

"We cannot allow ourselves to be blackmailed. I think it was a good signal to send," Martin Schulz, leader of the Socialists and Democrats said. Guy Verhofstaft, his liberal counterpart, said: "You only walk away if you are sure the others will come after you."

The UK's decision not to allow full treaty change resulted in all other member states pledging to construct an intergovernmental treaty instead - meant to be signed by March.

But this route is fraught with legal and political challenges - not least over how the treaty should be drawn up, what should be in it, its implications for democracy and how it should be enforced.

MEPs, having being informed that they will be "associated" with the process, are already angling for a greater role.

"The European Parliament has to be the third equal partner alongside the commission and the Council. If not, I can only recommend to the European Parliament not to take any further step in this process," Schulz said during the debate.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso devoted much of his speech to assuring MEPs that EU institutions will continue to play a major role in the new set-up, with some EU officials concerned that the fiscal pact will operate beyond Brussels' control and with new institutions.

"The agreement will not replace Union institutions and procedures but on the contrary build on them. The commission will do all it can so that this agreement is legally safe and institutionally acceptable," said Barroso, noting that we would try and get most of the proposed changes agreed under normal EU law.

Barroso compromise blocked

Barroso also indicated his frustration with the outcome of the summit by revealing that he had tabled a compromise to try and get London on board.

"In search of compromise, I tabled a clause providing, in the EU treaties, that any measures adopted by the Council and applying to the euro area only, must not undermine the internal market including in financial services. Unfortunately this compromise proved impossible," Barroso said.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has argued since the summit that he took the steps he did to protect the City of London, Europe's largest financial services sector.

Although the majority of MEPs were critical of the summit's intergovernmental outcome, some said it was inevitable.

"Where we are now is a result of the misleading "ever closer union" and "one-size-fits-all" doctrine," said Czech deputy Jan Zahradil of the anti-federalist European Conservatives and Reformists group.

Nigel Farage, a prominent eurosceptic, believes that while Cameron "gained no concessions whatsoever" from his veto move, he has opened the debate in Britain about EU membership as a whole.

"Cameron does not know what he has unleashed," said Farage.

Blair finds support for British rebate

After weeks of fighting a lonely battle defending the British rebate against the wishes of 24 other member states, Tony Blair finally found some support on Monday in the form of German opposition leader Angela Merkel.

EU parliament reminds governments of new budget powers

As member-state wrangling over the next multi-annual budget gets underway, parliament is keen to remind governments that the time-honoured tradition of sleepy-eyed leaders announcing a deal within spitting distance of the deadline will no longer be possible.

News in Brief

  1. EU warns Turkey as 'Gezi Park' trials begin
  2. EU universities to share students, curricula
  3. Migrant rescue ship loses Human Rights Court appeal
  4. Denmark completes social democrat sweep of Nordics
  5. Johnson offers 'do or die' pledge on Brexit
  6. Weber indirectly attacks Macron in newspaper op-ed
  7. EU to sign free trade deal with Vietnam
  8. EU funding of air traffic control 'largely unnecessary'

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all

The visit of Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz to the White House on Wednesday showed that the current rift in transatlantic relations is deepening by the day.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  4. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  6. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  7. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  8. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  9. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate

Latest News

  1. EU moves to end car-testing 'confidentiality clause'
  2. EU parliament gives extra time for leaders on top jobs
  3. Europe's rights watchdog lifts Russia sanctions
  4. EU-Vietnam trade deal a bad day for workers' rights
  5. EU 'special envoy' going to US plan for Palestine
  6. Polish judicial reforms broke EU law, court says
  7. EU study: no evidence of 'East vs West' food discrimination
  8. Russia tried to stir up Irish troubles, US think tank says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  3. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  6. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  11. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  12. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us