France, Germany call for stable EU farm budget post-Brexit

European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman

PARIS (Reuters) - France and Germany want the European Union’s agriculture budget to be maintained at its current level once Britain leaves the bloc, the French and German farm ministers said on Monday.

Rejecting a proposal from the European Commission for a reduction in the budget for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the ministers said in a joint statement they would seek that “the budget allocated to the CAP be maintained at its current level for the 27 member states.”

Britain’s planned withdrawal next year from the 28-country EU will remove a net contributor to the bloc’s overall budget, creating pressure to reduce major spending areas like agriculture.

In an effort to cut costs and promote other policies, the European Commission in May proposed to cut farm aid in the 2021-2027 period to 365 billion euros ($438 billion), down 5 percent from the current CAP.

This would represent a share of less than 30 percent of the total budget of 1.28 trillion euros in inflation-adjusted prices, down from more than 45 percent 20 years earlier.

France, by far the largest beneficiary of the CAP, called the Commission proposal “unacceptable” and has sought to rally other EU members to defend a stable farm budget.

Paris said in June it had won the support of 19 other countries but not Germany, the EU’s biggest economy and main contributor to the bloc’s budget.

“I welcome the fact that Germany has (now) joined us in the opposition to the Commission’s proposed CAP budget,” French Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert said in a statement on the common position found with his counterpart Julia Kloeckner.

The two ministers also called for more environment-friendly policies, a better targeting of direct subsidies and reinforcing crisis and risk management tools.

Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide and Gus Trompiz; Editing by Gareth Jones