EU budget row: Manfred Weber accuses EU nations of being ‘selfish’ in furious outburst

Manfred Weber, the head of the European People’s Party, slammed individual countries for their “selfishness” at the table. His condemnation comes after leaders departed Brussels on Friday evening following two days of meetings. The EU27 failed to reach a breakthrough at the meetings chaired by Charles Michel as the bloc grapples with the no-small task of filling the €75 billion gap left by the UK’s departure. 

Speaking after the talks on the 2021-27 budget ended without success, Ms Weber, a Christian Social Union (CSU) MEP, said the international community was looking on as European leaders squabble. 

He said Beijing and Washington, in particular, are keeping a close eye on the absence of agreement at the EU table. 

He told the Funke media group: “It is about selfishness and not about the necessary European ambition.

“The many good ideas for an ambitious Europe are ground up into small pieces. 

“China and the USA are happy.”

Mr Weber threatened to reject the budget.

He added: “Approval from the European Parliament will only be given if the direction changes.” 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted on Friday evening after more than 24 hours of negotiations that the differences between the parties at the table were too big to find a compromise. 

Setting the seven-year budget is always a tug of war, but it is fiercer than ever this time because of Britain’s exit from the EU last month. 

The UK’s departure came at a time of costly new challenges from climate change to migration.

The standoff over the size of the budget and how to carve it up has exposed rifts between countries in the north and south, between east and west, and between more developed and less advanced economies.

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Denmark, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands – dubbed “the frugal four” – arrived to the talks adamant that they would not accept a budget of more than one percent of gross national income.

Beneficiaries of the joint budget, meanwhile, were asking for more than the previous proposal of 1.074 percent, equivalent to €1.09 trillion. 

Mr Michel’s proposal would have capped joint spending at 1.069 percent of the continent’s economic output, but this was immediately rejected when he brought the leaders around the table to put it to them.

“Unfortunately we have observed that it was not possible to reach an agreement,” he told a news conference minutes later.

“We have observed that we need more time.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters in Brussels the new budget must take the Brexit gap into account.

He said: “We are willing to pay more because we are accepting that the budget will go up with economic growth and inflation.” 

He said a proposal late on Friday aimed at breaking the deadlock was rejected by beneficiaries of the EU budget just as much as the “frugal” camp seeking to rein in spending.

A date for the next round of talks has yet to be set in stone.

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