I thank the Deputy for raising this matter. The MFF was most recently discussed at the October European Council meeting, where leaders exchanged views on key issues such as the overall level of expenditure, the volumes of expenditure in the main policy area, and financing, including revenues and corrections as well as conditionalities and incentives.
In light of the discussion, the Council called on the Presidency to submit a negotiation box with figures in advance of the European Council meeting in December 2019. The discussion largely reiterated the differences among member states on the matter. There was no narrowing of views on the overall level of expenditure, with a number of net contributors reiterating the need to keep the overall level at 1% of EU gross national income, GNI. While there was strong pushback from the net recipients on the Presidency proposals, which they consider too low, they argue for an overall level of 1.1% of EU GNI. On the allocation of volumes between areas, net recipients expressed strong dissatisfaction regarding proposals on the CAP and cohesion, which they view as requiring further cuts to the Commission's proposals, for cohesion in particular. The issue of rebates also highlighted different positions, with some net contributors stating the need for a correction mechanism as their contributions rise, with others in favour of their phasing out.
The Taoiseach has noted that while Ireland's contribution is likely to increase significantly, we need to talk about the benefits and not just the costs of EU membership, including access to the Single Market, which vastly outweighs EU budget contributions. In respect of contributions to the EU budget, Ireland is likely to see significant growth in its contributions as a result of continued economic growth. For example, under a 1.1% GNI ceiling, the average annual contribution will be €3.3 billion. I will outline the various cost consequences if it is below 1.1%.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The Commission published data last week on the level of contributions that member states are likely to make under the next multi-annual financial framework, MFF. I welcome the addition of such data to the debate to provide all parties with a realistic framework within which to negotiate. While Ireland recognises the Commission's figures, member states have differing approaches to the calculation of both contributions and receipts, which can lead to differences in forecasts. The exact level of contributions will depend on the final MFF negotiations, not least the level of overall expenditure and the own resources to be applied. Ireland's contributions to the EU budget in 2018 amounted to just over €2.5 billion. In 2019, we expect final contributions to be slightly below this figure.