EU warned to respect voters as Dutch rage about demands to send more cash to Brussels

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Finance minister Wopke Hoekstra said his government had deliberately taken a hardline approach because of their electorate’s disdain over more funds being sent to Brussels. Wrangling over the bloc’s next long-term budget and recovery fund for pandemic-stricken regions and industries will resume in Brussels tomorrow as European leaders meet for the first time in person after the health crisis exploded onto the Continent.

The Dutch have pitched themselves as the leading opposition to the spending plans with prime minister Mark Rutte “sombre” about the chances of an agreement this week.

Mr Hoekstra said the Hague’s criticism of the package is because a majority of voters in the Netherlands have voiced concerns about taxpayers’ cash being used irresponsibly.

He told Bloomberg: “If you have come up with a responsible position, it’s wise not to budge a millimetre.

“Don’t forget that the vast majority of the Netherlands either agreed with the government’s position or thought it was too soft.”

Dutch political leaders are preparing for next year’s parliamentary elections as euroscepticism appears to be on the rise.

Mainstream parties are wary of the threat posted to them by anti-EU parties, such as the Forum for Democracy, after Mr Rutte lost control of the upper house last year.

European Council President Charles Michel had hoped to encourage the Dutch to support Brussels’ next spending plan with the introduction of a cut-price budget.

The EU’s most senior official slashed €25billion off the seven-year Multiannual Financial Framework when he unveiled the €1.075trillion package last week.

The former Belgian prime minister offered a rebate on richer countries’ contributions in a bid to smooth the path towards a deal.

But he refused to propose changes to the €750billion recovery fund put forward by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who based her blueprint on a Franco-German proposition.

Under her plan, the EU would borrow cash on international markets to pay for the distribution of €500billion in grants and €250billion in loans to the economies worst hit by the pandemic.

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Southern states, such as Spain and Italy, look set to secure the most funding for their recoveries.

Angela Merkel has warned her EU colleagues of the time pressure they face as the deepest recession since the Second World War hangs over the bloc.

The German Chancellor will play a senior role in negotiating the package after assuming control of the EU’s rotating presidency.

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Earlier this week Mrs Merkel said she was unsure whether a deal can be struck this week.

“I don’t know if we will reach an agreement,” she said.

“It is still not sure and the path remains long.”

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