EU crisis: Brussels bracing for ‘most difficult’ budget talks after Brexit

The special meeting scheduled for February 20 is set to play host to a dramatic showdown between heads of state and Eurocrats as they argue over more than £850m (€1bn). European Council president Charles Michel warned the summit is on track to be “the most difficult one ever in EU history because of the Brexit gap”. An EU diplomat told Politico Mr Michel was planning on holding the talks “in a Belgian way” meaning he will not allow participants to leave until an agreement has been reached. 

The Belgian politician has spent the past few weeks visiting major European capitals as he mediates between governments. 

The willingness to compromise on key issues is said to be low among many leaders. 

With just four days to go until the UK departs the bloc, the remaining 27 member states are faced with a future in which they will have to fill the billion-dollar gap caused by Brexit. 

Britain has been one of the largest net contributors to the EU. 

Angela Merkel will be in a particularly sticky spot at the negotiating table, as there is a lot at stake for Germany. 

Brexit will serve as a welcome occasion for the Commission, France and other member nations to call for Berlin’s contribution discount to be cancelled. 

The Germans have insisted that their rebate should not be touched. 

READ MORE: EU row between France and Germany as Macron accused of wasting funds

“Our goal is a good agreement for all European citizens.” 

And fellow German Monika Hohlmeier, the chairwoman of the parliament’s budgetary control committee, also demanded more financial support from the federal government. 

The Christian Social Union (CSU) politician said: “It is incomprehensible to me that Germany refuses and insists on spending one percent of economic output without internalising the tasks ahead. 

“Just looking at the fact that we are the biggest net contributor is very one-sided. 

“Without the common single market, there would be a drastic increase in unemployment.” 

Mr Michel has been trying to get the recently stalled talks back on track since he entered office in early December. 

He is determined to wrap up the so-called Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) until 2027. 

But the conflict at the table is likely to be intensified by the differing positions taken by heads of state on issues such as climate protection, migration and the rule of law. 

The European Commission, headed by Ursula von der Leyen, has said the budgetary hole stands at around €13bn per year. 

Johannes Hahn, the EU’s budget commissioner, has stressed that in recent years that many member states have thrown expensive demands at the bloc, such as protecting Europe’s borders and building the EU Defence Union. 

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg. 

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