Germany will have to pay more into the European Union (EU) budget to make up the €9 billion (£7.7 billion) shortfall when the United Kingdom leaves the bloc, European Commissioner Günther Oettinger has said.
Cuts to agricultural subsidies have been pencilled in to help bridge the gap, but with Brussels determined to increase spending on a joint defence project and to deal with the ongoing migration crisis, all of the bloc’s net contributors have been told to expect higher membership fees once Britain departs, Euractiv has reported.
For Germany, this is likely to mean an extra €4.5 billion (£3.8 billion) in 2019 and 2020 on top of the more than €15 billion (£12.8 billion) a year net it already pays into the system, Oettinger told the business daily Handelsblatt.
However, while EU officials are keen to see the European project continue regardless of the cost, the increased liabilities may prove a step too far for many European citizens.
Already, support for the EU institutions is on the wane. A report published by Capital Economics in September found, based on opinion polling, the most Eurosceptic countries in the bloc are currently Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden.
The top five contributors to the budget are Germany, France, Italy, the UK, and Spain.
“Growing concerns about the potential for EU referendums in other countries are not unfounded,” the report noted, adding: “Not only is support for eurosceptic parties rising, but most countries’ constitutions allow referendums.
“Even where there are not explicit constitutional provisions, history suggests that referendums would be possible with enough political support.”
The front-runner in the French presidential race, Marine Le Pen, has promised to hold a referendum on France’s membership of the EU if elected. Speaking to reporters last week, the Front National leader said it is time to “build another Europe, whether Madame Merkel, monsieur Schulz or the other Commissioners want it or not.
“It is time to do away with an EU that is tempted by a fusion that destroys the Europe of nations.”
Meanwhile, the Dutch politician Geert Wilders, whose party is expected to top the polls in the Dutch general election due to take place in mid-March, has told a journalist that the EU’s days are numbered.
“I am sure that the last days of the European Union – it’s like the old Roman Empire – are coming. It’s just a matter of time,” he said.