The report on this morning’s EU recovery deal in the Irish Times is very comprehensive, reporting all of the issues in detail, except for one, which is, very strangely, totally left out of the coverage:
The 27 member states of the European Union this morning signed off on a €1.8 trillion package to fund the next seven years of spending and inject funds into struggling economies to help them weather the devastation of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The summit was one of the longest ever, and leaders negotiated through the night once again on Monday before announcing a deal had been reached at 5.30am on Tuesday.
“It has been a very challenging number of days negotiating this package but it has been worthwhile. The solidarity displayed throughout this summit is something that I think will stand Europe in good stead into the future,” Taoiseach Micheál Martin said after the deal was clinched.
Nowhere in Naomi O’Reilly’s report, for some reason, will you read that Ireland will contribute vastly more to the seven-year EU budget (which is separate to the recovery fund) than we get back. In fact, according to a German MEP who has the official figures, Ireland will contribute almost €16billion more than it receives:
Well done, Great Britain – Brexit is saving you 80bn euros as I'm writing! The @EuropeanCouncil is finalising the #RecoveryFund. If the #uk were still in the #UE it wd still be the 2nd largest contributor to the EU budget + be contributing 80bn euros on top for the #RecoveryFund. pic.twitter.com/MuNS9e5lnM
— Dr. Gunnar Beck (@gunnar_beck) July 18, 2020
German media (unlike the Irish media) provides the full figures:
Only four countries – Sweden, France, Germany, and Holland – are paying in more than Ireland is.
Indeed, when asked about this, Thomas Byrne, Minister for Europe, didn’t seem to demur:
“It is true that we will pay in more than we receive, but that does reflect our strong economic growth, and the Single Market participation. That’s a huge benefit to the economy, for social, environmental, financial terms it’s been absolutely massive. It is difficult to estimate how much we will contribute, but it will be substantial but we will be gaining and back from the EU budget itself in terms of direct grants, in terms of loans.”
Interestingly, by objecting to this mammoth budget, the so-called “frugal” countries, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, and Sweden, have all secured rebates on their contributions to the EU budget, as can be seen in the (typically inpenetrable) document itself:
For the period 2021-2027, lump-sum corrections will reduce the annual GNI-based contribution of Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden, and in the context of the support for the recovery and resilience, as well as of Germany. The Member States concerned shall benefit from a gross reduction in their annual Gross National Income-based contribution in 2020 prices of:
- Denmark: EUR 377 million;
- Germany: EUR 3 671 million;
- The Netherlands: EUR 1 921 million;
- Austria: EUR 565 million;
- Sweden: EUR 1 069 million.
Ireland did not object, or seek a rebate, so we’re on the hook for the full amount, while the Germans get themselves a nice discount.
Pro-European voices (basically the entire media, political, and business establishments in Ireland) will, of course, try to obfuscate this issue by pointing out all the funding Ireland is likely to receive from the EU in the coming years – but here’s the thing: If you add up all that funding, we’re still going to be paying out billions more than we get back. In fact, if Dr. Beck’s figures are to be believed above (and there’s no reason to disbelieve him unless your policy is to disbelieve him simply because he is a eurosceptic, though that will be reason enough for some people) then Ireland will be contributing as much to the EU over the next few years as we spend on healthcare in a single year.
For some reason, the Irish Times didn’t think that was an important point to mention. Over here, we think it is.
Update: The Irish Freedom Party, who want us out of the EU altogether, have sent in a statement from Party Leader Hermann Kelly. He says:
“It’s shocking that Ireland’s Brussels correspondents haven’t yet informed the public about this new debt the government has tied around their necks. As it stands, €44,365 is owed by every man, woman and child in the State. We are the 3rd most publicly indebted country in the world.
Ireland is to hand over in cash the highest % of its national GDP to the EU than any country in Europe bar wealthy Luxembourg.
The additional €15.7 billion transfer from Ireland is independent to our part of funding the EU’s MFF budget for the next 7 years which comes to a pricey €1,074.3 billion. Of course, Ireland has been a net contributor to the EU budget since 2013 and in 2018 handed over a net €720 million. And ultimately, why are we paying people in Brussels we did not elect to make laws we don’t need?”
For my own part, that strikes me as a reasonable question, but don’t expect it to be widely discussed in the media.