Cameron defiant on £1.7bn Euro-bill

Published: Friday 7th November 2014 by The News Editor

Comments (3)

EU finance mìnisters are holding talks on the £1.7 billion budget demand after David Cameron made clear Britain will not accept a mooted compromise deal.

Appealing for help from northern European counterparts over dinner at a summit in Helsinki, the Prime Minister warned that the row was making the UK more likely to leave.

He told leaders at the Northern Future Forum that the announcement of the surcharge had triggered a 10% poll swing towards leaving the union.

Proposals being circulated in Brussels would see the UK allowed to pay its bill in instalments next year – rather than in full by December 1. Punitive interest payments on the debt would also be waived.

But Mr Cameron told premiers from Finland, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Norway that the headline figure of the demand was “unacceptable”, as well as the short notice.

Related: Should we pay or should we pay or should we go? – Poll  

According to Downing Street, Mr Cameron insisted the bill – calculated by officials based on a reassessment of economic performance over the past decade – could not be treated as a “purely technical transaction”.

The PM, who has previously said Britain will not pay “anything like” £1.7 billion, argued that the row was a “prime example of where the EU needs to show more flexibility and respond to voters’ concerns”. He also warned that, while the UK has been hardest hit this time, other states could find themselves in the same position in future.

The Government is hoping EU finance ministers will give political impetus to efforts to find a solution when they meet later. But Chancellor George Osborne could face a difficult task after other countries signalled their backing for the suggested compromise.

Irish finance minister Michael Noonan reportedly said: “I think everybody should pay what’s due and abide by the rules in Europe but I have no objection to the British government settling their account by way of instalment over 2015.

“If they pay the capital amount on an agreed instalment basis that should be sufficient.”

The UK’s position could be further weakened by indications that the Netherlands – which was hit with a £600 million surcharge – is ready to go along with the deal.

Britain’s new EU commissioner Lord Hill has appealed for “calm” to help find a resolution in the dispute. But Tory backbencher Peter Bone urged a blunt response to the latest suggestion.

“The Prime Minister should tell them to get stuffed,” he said. “The idea that it can be paid in instalments is laughable and absurd.”

Labour set out a list of demands for the negotiation but said Mr Cameron’s “bluster in Brussels appears to have made it harder for the UK to negotiate a better deal”.

In a joint article for The Guardian, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander and shadow chancellor Ed Balls saud the bill was “clearly unacceptable, and presented in an unacceptable way.

“But the UK government is also guilty of having already made a difficult situation even worse,” they said.

They said the PM should state whether the UK was prepared to take the EU Commission to the European Court of Justice if it insists on the deadline and clarify the position on interest payments on the outstanding sum if it is missed.

He should also work to “build a coherent case in order to maintain a credible alliance” among member states facing higher contributions, they said, and repair relations with Germany “soured following David Cameron’s increasingly desperate rhetoric in the run-up to the Rochester by-election”.

“Conservative backbenchers seem to see this latest dispute with the commission as just another episode of their obsession with Europe,” they said. “But the truth is it marks a real test for David Cameron and George Osborne.

“In recent months, they seem to have given up making the case for Britain’s place in Europe.

“But with an impending bill and a deadline fast approaching, we literally cannot afford this approach.

“So in Brussels this week, ministers need to start securing a much better deal for Britain.

“That means the Government must have all eyes on the detail of the deal being discussed, not looking back over their shoulders at the Eurosceptic backbenchers who still seem to be pulling the strings.”

Published: Friday 7th November 2014 by The News Editor

Comments (3)
  • keith lambert

    pull us out of the eu before there bankrupt our country

  • keith lambert

    if the powers that be cannot or will not pull us out its time to have a party that will and to stand for what british every day working people want

  • bailey

    it seem to me that the e u is hell bent on ruining this country its time to get out now

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