21 of 27 member states ‘willing to up’ EU budget input

A total of 21 out of the 27 European Union member states have indicated that they’re willing to put more funding into the EU budget in a bid to plug the hole left by Brexit, according to European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan.

Speaking on RTE Radio One’s The Today Show with Sean O’Rourke, Commissioner Hogan also discussed the ongoing Brexit negotiations with the UK Government and the EU’s recently-published draft legal text summarising the agreement reached last December.

When quizzed on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and how the overall EU budget will be affected by the UK’s departure, Hogan said: “We do have ideas of how you can plug [the budget] and that is to get money from the member states.

Already 21 out of the 27 member states have indicated they’re prepared to put more money into the EU budget; they’re prepared to support the European Union project, whether that’s old policies like the CAP and like the cohesion policy or new policies around defence, security and migration.

Continuing, the commissioner added: “The other 27 member states are getting on with the business of strengthening Europe and obviously that requires some money.

“And I’m glad that the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has indicated clearly that Ireland is prepared to pay a little bit more in order to get the type of cohesion and overall EU co-ordination in relation to many important policies like the one in agriculture.”

Legal text

Hogan said that he was surprised at the “hysteria” in Britain following the publication of the EU’s legal text this week, adding that anyone who attended December’s negotiations should “not have been taken by surprise”, given that the text is basically what was agreed upon three months ago.

“Everybody in the European Union and Ireland and the UK wish to conclude negotiations with the same objectives, which is the frictionless trade arrangement, no hard border, in other words continue as we are today.

“The United Kingdom and the European Union agreed a text in December which set out how this would be achieved.

“So the European Union yesterday tabled a text to operationalise that political agreement in December into a legal format. And we are now going to see what the United Kingdom are going to do in producing a paper that actually will adhere to the same agreement.

“But, they may have a different way of achieving it; we’re open to discussions on that under the various options that were agreed in the joint report in December,” he said.

Article 50

The commissioner clearly indicated that the Brexit ball is now in British Prime Minister, Theresa May’s, court.

“It was the UK that decided that it would leave the European Union, it was the UK that invoked article 50, and at the end of the day, we have to be clear, everything in paragraph 50 of the agreement that was agreed in December is what was insisted upon by the United Kingdom.”

The commissioner stressed that it is not the EU’s responsibility; but rather the UK’s responsibility to ensure that there are no regulatory barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain – as was included in the agreement.

He added: “We’ve a lot of red lines being put on the table by the United Kingdom that would provide a lot of good solutions in our view in relation to a frictionless trade arrangement and a soft border. These are the objectives that everybody wants to achieve.

If you start off in a negotiation with red lines like no customs union, no single market, no regulatory alignment, no European Court of Justice – well then you run out of options.

Hogan said that the UK was also free to put forward proposals and he looked forward to seeing such texts.

He added that he hoped that Prime Minister May would provide details on the negotiations in a speech she is expected to give tomorrow; however, he warned that these are needed sooner rather than later:

“Time is ticking, and there are only seven months left for these negotiations to be concluded, so I think that Prime Minister May knows exactly what she has to do and she has to operationalise what she agreed and signed up to in December.”

What was agreed in December, the commissioner explained, was setting out options which gave a lot of flexibility to both sides to be able to come up with solutions.

“All of these options are well-known to the British Prime Minister.

I think a lot of the hysterics that we’ve seen in the past 24 hours regarding what has been put on the table is a very big surprise to me – because no one should have been surprised about what was going to be in this document if they were close to negotiations in December.

‘Hard border’ warning

Earlier this morning, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, warned British Prime Minister Theresa May that Britain’s plan to leave the EU’s customs union and single market could mean a return to a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Addressing a conference in Brussels, Tusk said yesterday’s EU proposal to incorporate Northern Ireland within a “common regulatory area” with the EU was the best option to avoid border friction.

However, Tusk intends to encourage May to come up with a “wiser option” when he meets with her in London later today.