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Danish minister: 'We will not pay more' to EU after Brexit

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Danish minister: 'We will not pay more' to EU after Brexit
Finance Minister Kristian Jensen. Photo: Martin Sylvest/Scanpix
10:11 CEST+02:00
Minister of Finance Kristian Jensen says he is determined that Britain’s imminent exit from the EU will not mean more expensive membership for Denmark.

The Scandinavian country currently benefits from a membership discount due to the contribution made by the UK for its membership.

Sweden’s prime minister Stefan Löfven said Monday that the EU would have to adjust its budget for the multi-billion euro hole left in its finances by Britain’s exit.

But Jensen said that Denmark would rather focus on the total amount it pays into the European Union.

Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands currently benefit from a discount on their EU memberships that is measured proportionally to the UK’s own contribution, which in turn is given an instant discount or rebate, despite it making up a large proportion of the union’s total income.

Once the British rebate disappears, the basis for the other countries receiving discounts on their membership goes with it, reports Danish news agency Ritzau.

But Jensen told the agency the he did not see any cause for concern.

“Our [discount] already has an expiry date and runs out in 2020. So the most important thing for me is how much we must pay to the EU,” Jensen said.

Löfven and Swedish finance minister Magdalena Andersson expressed their concerns Monday about having to partially foot the bill following the loss of Britain’s membership contribution.

Sweden risked ending up with a bill of ten billion Swedish kronor (€1.05 billion) per year if the EU did not reduce its expenses following Brexit, said Andersson.

Britain current membership fee is around €21 billion before the rebate is applied, approximately 15 percent of the total membership fees paid by the 28 EU countries.

Some of this contribution is offset by spending on Britain by the EU however, making the net loss of income from the country’s departure lower.

Löfven said that he hoped that other countries that were net contributors to the EU – including the Netherlands, Germany and Austria – would support the reduction of costs to offset loss of income from member contributions.

Andersson added that she supported the reallocation of EU spending, with more less money going to areas such as agricultural and regional aid and more to what she described as “genuine common problems and challenges”, including migration, competitiveness and climate change, reports Swedish news agency TT.

But the primary concern for Denmark would be the total amount Denmark pays for its membership of the union, Jensen said.

“The important thing is what Denmark has to pay. And I don’t think we should pay one krone more than we do now,” the minister said, according to Ritzau.

Like Löfven, Jensen underlined the need for the EU to adjust its budget according to the income change after Brexit.

“The EU must make sure that it adjusts its cost according to the income sources it has. Including after Brexit,” he said.

The British membership discount dates back to the 1980s, when eurosceptic prime minister Margaret Thatcher negotiated cheaper membership for the UK with the words “I want my money back”.

In 2013, former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt pushed through an agreement saving the country one billion kroner (€134 million) on its fees, with the justification that Denmark’s membership was costing more than the economic support it received from the union.

Read also: UK absent as EU leaders seek unity on 60th birthday

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