PARIS - The European Union’s first post-Brexit summit Thursday in Brussels promises to be a contentious one. The subject is money — how to fill a nearly $65 billion budget gap left by Britain’s departure from the bloc.
The EU’s 27 remaining members came together during Brexit negotiations, but that may not be the case in this new post-Brexit reality, with the departure of one of the EU’s biggest contributors.
'The Brexit gap'
“What we call the Brexit gap — that’s estimated to be around 60 billion over seven years. So that leaves a hole of approximately 10 billion every year,“ said Marta Pilati, a policy analyst for the European Policy Center, a Brussels research group.
“One of the most contentious issues is that as a consequence of Brexit, the budget should be smaller,” Pilati said, “or whether it should be maintained at the same level and thus allow more funding for the 27 member states.”
Draft proposals are also getting pushback from richer EU countries, which argue they will shoulder too much of the financial burden. Meanwhile, poorer member states, many from central and eastern Europe, worry they will lose key development funds.
In France, the EU’s biggest agricultural producer, farmers said they were worried about cuts to the bloc’s Common Agricultural Policy, the biggest budget item.
Climate change funding?
And some new areas of EU emphasis, including defense, research and innovation, and Europe’s coming "Green Deal" to fight climate change, could face less funding than expected.
“Because of course it’s easier to cut the budget of things that don’t exist yet, rather than cut the budget of programs that have been around for a very long time, and over which member states have very strong interests,” Pilati said.
Some observers like Pilati believe this one-day summit may stretch into two days and possibly more, as countries try to resolve their differences.