EU CHIEFS are holding back cash owed to Britain and other current member states over fears Theresa May will stop pouring money into the bloc’s coffers in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The Prime Minister’s Brexit deal committed then UK to keeping up its EU payments until the end of the current budget cycle in 2020. But Brussels fears the Prime Minister’s failure to get the withdrawal agreement through Parliament could see the Government cancel the direct debit and spark a cash crunch across the EU. And to limit the impact of such a potential shock to the bloc’s finances, the European Commission has asked employees to be more cautious with new spending in the first months of the year and leave a cushion for later in 2019.
A European Commission spokesman said: “In light of the current state of affairs, and as a precautionary measure, the agreed 2019 budget is being made available progressively to spending departments — the bulk of it upfront and a small proportion to be released in the course of the year.
“It is the Commission’s duty to ensure the sound financial management of the EU budget.
“Beneficiaries whose projects have already been signed will not be affected — all legal and contractual obligations will be honoured. This precautionary measure only concerns new projects.”
Britain is still one of the biggest net contributors to the EU’s budget, which finances everything from agricultural subsidies to regional programs and research projects.
Some European institutions fear devastating post-Brexit budget cuts as it remains unclear who would step in to plug the gap if London stopped making payments.
Karl-Heinz Lambertz, president of the European Committee of the Regions, said: “With so much uncertainty clouding the UK’s departure from the EU, we need to prepare for the worst to cushion the blow Brexit could have on its regions and cities.”
9.44am update: Majority thinks Corbyn wrong to snub May invitation
The majority of the public think Jeremy Corbyn is wrong to snub Theresa May’s offer of Brexit talks unless she rules out leaving the EU without a deal, according to a Sky Data poll.
The poll found 51 percent said the Labour leader was wrong not to negotiate with the Prime Minister with 25 percent saying he is right and 25 percent unsure.
Mr Corbyn has urged Labour MPs not to engage with the Government until the threat of no deal is removed, with Mrs May responding that the demand is an “impossible condition”.
The Sky Data poll found although Labour voters back Mr Corbyn, they are divided on the issue – with 45 percent saying he is right, 35 percent wrong, and 20 percent don’t know.