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Week ahead: A Christmas Carol

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The December European Council used to signal the moment the jobbing journalist could put down his or her tools and start to enjoy the festive season. For the past two years Brexit has proved rather disruptive on this front. This year, though, it is the Commission that will be keeping us tied to our laptops until the last moment. 

Own Resources

Like Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit, DG Budget have been holed-up in their counting house. The own resources package to be presented - just before the curtain falls on 2021 - is the much anticipated answer to the question: How will the EU pay for the Next Generation EU investment? The issuance of bonds to fund Next Generation EU has been wildly successful, with each issuance heavily oversubscribed. The debt will, of course, have to be paid back eventually, the deadline for this is 2058, which is mercifully some time away. On Wednesday (22 December) we will learn about how the European Commission intends to do this. Various sources mooted include revenue from the EU’s Emissions Trading System, a digital levy from improved corporate taxation on big tech  and a carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM), which the Commission has already acknowledged won’t generate much revenue.

Shell entities

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Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis will also present an initiative to fight the use of shell entities and a proposal on the implementation of the OECD global agreement on minimum effective taxation. Both are very important in the fight for fairer taxation and for shell entities, also in the fight against corruption. 

Fit for 55

The really terribly named ‘Fit for 55’ package will be discussed by ministers at today’s (20 December) Environment Council. Ministers will also discuss progress on the proposal for a regulation concerning batteries and waste batteries. The EU soil strategy for 2030, the proposal on minimizing the risk of deforestation and forest degradation associated with products placed on the EU market and its proposal on shipments of waste will also be discussed. 

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Brexmas

The UK may have borrowed all its Christmas traditions from Germany, but the now traditional Brexit Christmas Crisis is one of its own invention. Like the cinnamon in Glühwein, it adds a little spice to the holiday season. 

‘I Wear the Chain I Forged in Life…Of My Own Free Will I Wore It’

After a pretty dull press conference on Friday (17 December), where we learnt from European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič and Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides that the EU was earnestly working to ensure access to medicines in Northern Ireland, Lord Frost issued a statement showing he was still harrumphing in the corner like some truculent old golf-club bore who has maybe imbibed a few too many single malts. That looked pretty much like the up and the down of it until late Saturday (18 December) when rumours started to circulate that Frost had resigned. 

Dickensian 

These rumours were confirmed to be true. Strangely, the rift wasn’t over Brexit, instead Frost, a lifelong civil servant, who briefly peddled Scotch whisky, has become a dyed-in-the-wool free trading Libertarian who wants to rip up the rule book unshackling the British from troublesome regulations that protect the environment, your data, basic workers’ rights... Frost also believes that Johnson has strayed from a commitment to low taxation; presumably so that the UK can do an even better job of ‘decreasing the surplus population’. Though, to be fair, the government’s ‘devil may care’ attitude to the Omicron variant and a health service that is already broken, as well as broke, would suggest that policy is already in place. 

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will take over the brief, Chris Heaton-Harris - a former MEP - will be her foot soldier. Truss is trusted by the Conservatives despite campaigning against leaving the EU in 2016, Chris Heaton-Harris is probably reassuring for the more rabid wing of the Conservative Party. His only memorable contribution to public debate has been writing to every Vice Chancellor in the UK in 2017 asking them to hand over the list of those teaching European affairs and to provide links to their syllabus, a move described by unpatriotic, Europhile, Jean Monnet-loving academics as McCarthyism. 

Other business

The European Parliament is in recess this week, but the European Court will still be delivering judgements on 21 December.

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