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Midnight summit break


Friday 23 November 2012
Schoolmaster Van Rompuy has sent the kids home to work through a bunch of numbers. 

The EU's leaders now have until Friday noon to figure out where they want to draw the line in the negotiations for the next multi-annual financial framework.

"We will now spend the night looking at [the proposal] closely," a rather gloomy François Hollande told reporters after the summit had broken up at midnight. 

A strategy emerges from the figures we have from Van Rompuy's new proposal:

Van Rompuy has placated the countries such as France that want to protect farm aid and those including Poland, Hungary and Spain that want to protect regional spending. He has boosted agricultural spending by €8 billion and regional aid by €10bn. He takes this from the headings for external action and security and justice - defence of which is no one's top priority. 

He also takes €5bn out of the 'Connecting Europe' facility, a pet project of the Commission that has but lukewarm support from the cohesion countries because it is partly financed from cohesion spending.

Van Rompuy has not made further cuts to the EU's administrative spend because he needs to have that line in reserve for what looks likely to be a bruising fight with David Cameron, who has asked for aggressive cuts to eurocrats' salaries and perks. By not touching the heading now, Van Rompuy has the option of cutting it by a couple of billions tomorrow afternoon, when the real negotiations begin and when he might have to throw something to Cameron to prevent him from storming out (although he might still do so).

Increasing farm aid is not going to be popular with the countries that want a more modern EU focused on competitiveness and economic growth.

But nobody should be surprised if the €8bn Van Rompuy has added tonight will be subtracted from again tomorrow. Such is the calculus of a European Council. 

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Toby Vogel

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