European leaders have insulted each other, banged their fists on tables and stormed out as marathon talks on a Covid-19 rescue deal dragged on yesterday.
The summit has become one of the longest and most ill-tempered in the EU’s history, stretching into a fourth night last night.
Emmanuel Macron is said to have bashed the table and hit out at Austrian premier Sebastian Kurz for leaving the room to make a telephone call.
Emmanuel Macron is said to have bashed the table and hit out at Austrian premier Sebastian Kurz for leaving the room
The French president also even accused Dutch premier Mark Rutte of behaving like former prime minister David Cameron, known for taking a hard line at EU summits.
But Mr Macron is said to have mocked Mr Rutte by reminding him it ‘ended badly’ for Mr Cameron over Brexit.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel walked out of the talks in Brussels on Saturday night after in frustration at the stalemate.
Yesterday, in a sign of how fraught the summit has been, Mr Rutte insisted: ‘We’re not here so we can go to each others’ birthdays for the rest of our lives. We’re all here to defend the interests of our own countries.’
The leaders have been deadlocked over a proposed £680billion rescue fund to deal with the economic fallout from Covid-19.
Last night sources said the bloc was edging closer to a deal but stressed the talks could still fail.
If they continue into today, it could become the EU’s longest summit since an 85-hour marathon in Nice, France, in 2000.
Mr Macron expressed cautious hope of reaching agreement as talks resumed in the Belgian capital last night, having finished at 5.30am earlier in the day.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel walked out of the talks in Brussels on Saturday night after in frustration at the stalemate
He said: ‘There’s a spirit of compromise, there have been some very tense moments and some moments that will no doubt be difficult again. But things have moved forward.’
Mrs Merkel also expressed optimism, saying last night: ‘We put in place a framework for a possible agreement.
‘This is a step forward and it gives hope that an agreement can be reached today – or at least that an agreement is possible.’
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said things were ‘moving in the right direction’ and even Mr Rutte agreed it ‘looks more hopeful’.
Leaders have argued over how much of the massive rescue package should be handed out as non-repayable grants and what strings should be attached.
A group dubbed the ‘frugal five’ – the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Sweden and Denmark – has refused to accept Germany and France’s idea for £450billion to be grants.
Last night a possible compromise cutting the amount of grants to £350billion with the other £330billion in loans was on the table.
But the Netherlands was still pushing for countries who receive grants to commit to public spending reforms and to uphold the rule of law.
The Hague has accused southern economies such as Italy of being ill-prepared for the crisis due to mis-handling their finances.
The summit began on Friday and was only meant to last two days. The leaders also want to strike a deal on the £1trillion budget for 2021-2027.