The day-long summit in Brussels will focus on finding common ground on ways to make up the shortfall after Britain leaves, with members deeply divided over plans to force richer nations to stump up more.
But arriving at the event at the Europa Building this morning, some EU leaders insisted they would not be discussing Brexit.
Asked how much of today’s discussion will be about UK’s divorce with Brussels, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė said talks on the subject were “not envisaged”.
The event will also include talks on a long-awaited bloc-wide policy on refugees and asylum seekers after German leader Angela Merkel called for countries hosting a large number of migrants to receive more in EU aid.
Heads of government from the EU27 are all attending, but because the UK is due to leave on March 29, 2019, Theresa May was not invited.
Follow Express.co.uk for the latest updates from today’s EU summit.
12.28pm: European Parliament President Antonio Tajani reveals he is “optimistic” about the UK and the EU reaching a deal on Brexit.
Asked for his reaction on reports from Theresa May’s Brexit ‘war cabinet’ meeting yesterday, he said: “Finally I am optimistic.
“We need to work hard, but I am optimistic that finally we will have a solution and will achieve an agreement on this.
“Of course we are defending our position. There is a unity between the member states and the European institutions and the member states.
“My idea is very clear: we need to achieve an agreement because the day after Brexit the UK will be a member of Europe but not the European Union.”
He added even though the UK will be out of the EU, the bloc will continue to work with Britain on issues including security, immigration and terrorism.
Mr Tajani said he was ‘optimistic’ Britain and the EU would work out a Brexit deal
11.52am: On his way in to the roundtable meeting, Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz digs his heels in over paying more into the EU’s coffers.
The Chancellor has previously insisted his government will not pay a penny more in membership fees.
Austria is a ‘net contributor’ to the EU, meaning it mays more in than it receives out.
He said his country was “already paying a disproportionately large amount” to Brussels, adding after Brexit the EU would have to make cuts.
He said: “It would be wrong to think that they can continue to demand more and more of the net payers.
“It won’t work like that.”
Mr Kurz acknowledged the budget negotiations would likely result in a compromise but said Austria was not prepared to accept “many of the suggestions currently on the table”.
Austria’s Sebastian Kurz insisted he would not pay more to the EU in contributions
11.36am: Jean-Claude Juncker has acknowledged the issue of migration is dividing Europe and insisted he does not want the rift between east and west to grow any wider.
Arriving at the summit, the Commission President said the issue needed to be discussed when asked to comment on calls by Angela Merkel to grant more EU funding to countries which were willing to take their fair share of refugees.
Responding to a follow-up question asking whether the issue was dividing Europe, he said: “As you know I am very worried that this divide exists between east and west.
“Sometimes this is augmented, sometimes the differences get realigned.
“I do not want a new division of Europe we have had enough of that.”
Jean-Claude Juncker joked he would be a better leader for Britain
11.15am: Jean-Claude Juncker has claimed he would be a better leader for Britain than Theresa May.
Arriving at the summit, the EU Commission President was asked to comment on reports from yesterday’s meeting of the Prime Minister’s Brexit ‘war cabinet’.
He replied by saying he would only give a response to the talks at Chequers after he is told the “exact conclusion”.
Asked when he expected to be told of the outcome, he shrugged and said: “I’m not the British Prime Minister.
“It would be good for Britain if I was it, but I’m not.”
11.02am: The leaders of the EU27’s top economies have arrived at the summit together.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian PM Paolo Gentiloni gave brief speeches in their native languages before heading into the first of today’s roundtable discussions.
Mr Macron spoke about the relationship between the three countries and how closely they are working together.
He hit out at terrorists, insisting he wants to work to improve security in the EU.
And he added France is ready to commit to military cooperation across the European Union.
The European Union’s new top three economies arrived at the Brussels summit together
10.55am: European Parliament President Antonio Tajani insists the EU is “working hard” to secure the resources needed to continue funding its flagship policies after Brexit.
He said the bloc was focussing on dealing with immigration, security and growth, particularly on creating more jobs for young people.
But he admitted the union faces challenges in paying for its aims.
He said: “After Brexit we need money to achieve these goals, we are working hard to get more resources.”
Antonio Tajani said the EU faces challenges in paying for its flagship policies after Brexit
10.43am: Mark Rutte, the Dutch Prime Minister, has said a hard Brexit would not be devastating to trade between Britain and the Netherlands.
He reiterated the European Union is keen to stay as close to the UK as possible, but warned continued membership of the single market and customs union will come with obligations.
Asked whether some countries asking for a harder Brexit than he would like to see, Mr Rutte said “no”, adding the EU27 is united in wanting to keep a close relationship with Britain once it exits the bloc.
But he urged Theresa May to be “as clear as possible” on the UK’s endgame.
Asked whether he is “any clearer on the British position” after Mrs May’s Brexit ‘war cabinet’ meeting at Chequers yesterday, the Dutch leader replied: “No, because you have to report to me.”
Dutch PM Mark Rutte said a hard Brexit would not devastate trade between his country and the UK
10.37am: Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel brushed off questions about Great Britain from reporters as he arrived at the summit.
He said the EU would use today to discuss security, defence, immigration, improving employment and setting the next budget.
10.28am: EU bosses have pledged to provide £44million (€50million) for defence in the Sahel region in sub-Saharan Africa.
Today’s EU Council summit is also coinciding with a conference on the region, and several EU leaders, including Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, have spent the morning meeting with representatives from the region.
The area has been blighted by terrorism and instability, and following the conference this morning High Representative Federica Mogherini announced the EU would double its funding for the G5 Sahel military force.
Belgian PM Charles Michel said EU leaders would not be discussing Brexit
10.00am: Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė has said today’s discussions will focus on deciding whether to make cuts or increase contributions.
Arriving at the summit, she said “political decisions” by member states would decide the way forward but did not rule out the possibility of making member states pay more
She said the challenge of Brexit would mean the EU was facing some 20 per cent less cash, and members would “need to decide whether to increase the budget or make cuts”.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė said today’s talks would not be about Brexit
EU leaders are meeting without the UK today to discuss Brexit and the bloc’s long-term budget plans
9.36am: Outspoken Eurosceptic Viktor Orban has arrived at the summit.
The Hungarian Prime Minister has been vocal in his criticism of Brussels, particularly with regards to the EU’s policy on migration.
As one of the nations on the edge of the bloc, Hungary has seen far more refugees and asylum seekers pass through its borders than states closer to the centre.
In his annual state of the union speech earlier this week, Mr Orban claimed his country was the last bastion against what he called the “Islamisation” of Europe.
The issue of a bloc-wide migration policy is likely to be discussed at today’s summit.
Hungarian PM Viktor Orban has been highly critical of the EU in the past
9.30am: Welcome to the EU summit live blog
Leaders from across the union are beginning to arrive for today’s talks, which are likely to focus on Brexit and how to make up for the £11.5bn contributed to the bloc by the UK each year.
EU boss Jean-Claude Juncker has floated the idea of making richer nations pay more in membership fees to help plug the gap.
But a number of members, including Austria and the Netherlands, have flat out refused to pay a penny more.
The EU’s finance chief Günther Oettinger has acknowledged there will need to be cuts to some of the bloc’s flagship projects, though exactly where the axe will fall is also likely to be highly contentious.