‘We need Britain!’ UK would have BLOCKED EU’s ‘socialist’ coronavirus plan, says ex-MEP

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EU Leaders hope the £677billion (€750 billion) recovery fund and its related £1trillion (€1.1trillion) 2021-2017 budget, agreed at the end of a four-day European Council summit in Brussels, will help offset the impact of the deepest recession since World War 2 – and arguably the biggest financial crisis the bloc has ever faced. However, critics are deeply concerned that the package includes £350billion (€390billion) to be paid out in the form of grants, which they fear will be used to bankroll high levels of public spending in Italy and Spain – the two EU countries hardest hit by the pandemic.

The £350billion figure is a compromise forced by the so-called “frugal four” (the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden), sometimes referred to as the “frugal five” with the inclusion of Finland – and a significant reduction on the £450billion (€500billion) initially proposed.

However, Hans-Olaf Henkel, who stepped down from the assembly last year, believes the concession does not go nearly far enough.

And he also believes had the UK still been a member of the bloc, it would had vetoed the agreement.

Mr Henkel told Express.co.uk: “This agreement in Brussels would not have been possible were Britain still part of the group.

“In the past Germany would not have agreed to such centralist, expensive and socialistic package either.

“But Germany can now not hide behind Britain’s back anymore when it comes to fight against mainly French ideas.”

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He added: “That’s why Merkel left it now to the frugal five under the leadership of Dutch Prime Minister Rutte to fight for British common sense.

“Never has the absence of Britain shown to be so detrimental to the EU as last night in Brussels.”

Mr Rutte has faced severe criticism domestically, with Dutch MEP Derk Jan Eppink claiming his country would be forced to increase taxes to foot the bill for spending in the south of the bloc.

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Mr Eppink further accused Mr Rutte of being the “reverse Moses” by leading his people into servitude – and saying the Dutch people should be allowed to vote on the proposals themselves.

He added: “Prime Minister Rutte sold us out. He should never have agreed to this end result.

“There should be a national referendum on this Redistribution Plan.

“Let the citizens decide for themselves about their money.

“Once again it appears that we are the ATM for the EU.

Nevertheless, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen yesterday insisted the deal meant the EU was now “well-equipped” to face the impending economic crisis.

She added: “I was always aware that if this wouldn’t have gone through we would have faced a disastrous situation because – Brexit’s impact ahead of us, no European budget, no public investment in size and scope that is necessary to face the crisis.”

Nevertheless, she conceded Europe was facing “a difficult autumn” because the economic impact of lockdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19 was more severe than first expected.

The Commission has forecast the EU economy will shrink by 8.3 percent in 2020.

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