Sunday 19 November 2017

MEPs reject Gilmore's claims of EU spending deal

Peter Flanagan and Colm Kelpie

THE European Union's budget negotiations descended into chaos yesterday, as the Irish presidency was accused of blackmailing MEPs into accepting a deal they don't want.

Late on Wednesday, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said he had "concluded negotiations" with the European Parliament's chief negotiator Alain Lamassoure over the €960bn, seven-year budget. However, shortly after Mr Gilmore claimed a deal had been done, several MEPs, who have to approve any agreement, came out fiercely against the pact.

And they accused the Tanaiste of strong-arming the European Parliament over the talks. German MEP Reimer Boge resigned from his position as lead budget negotiator for the centre-right European People's Party, accusing Mr Gilmore of "rather objectionable manipulation".

The row apparently centres on the parliament's perception that Mr Gilmore announced the budget – known officially as the Multi-annual Financial Framework – as a done deal, even though it has yet to be approved by the European Parliament and the General Affairs Council.

Austrian socialist MEP Hannes Swoboda described the deal as "blackmail" by the EU presidency, while Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt said "there is still no agreement" and the deal announced by Mr Gilmore would be a "straitjacket" for the parliament.

Package

The row is a huge embarrassment for Mr Gilmore and comes just 10 days before the end of the Irish presidency. Mr Gilmore said last night that the pact had to be put to the European Parliament for a vote and the General Affairs Council.

"I didn't spin at all, what I did was conclude negotiations . . . We have a package which we will put to the parliament and the European Council," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Tanaiste said that the conclusion of negotiations was "a step in the process". "They (Mr Gilmore and Mr Lamassoure) were always both going to have to go back and get the nod from the parliament and the General Affairs Council," she said.

Irish Independent

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