Cameron won’t pay ‘outrageous’ EU bill for an extra £1.7 billion

DAVID Cameron has flatly refused to pay a shock demand for a £1.7 billion top up payment to fund the European Union.

Ukip leader Nigel Farage has given his reaction to the shock EU demand for an extra 1.7 billion towards the European Union budget.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage has given his reaction to the shock EU demand for an extra 1.7 billion towards the European Union budget.

A clearly furious Prime Minister accused the Brussels Commission of behaving in an “unacceptable way” in insisting the payment should be made by December 1.

“This is completely unacceptable,” he said.

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“It is an unacceptable way for this organisation to work - to suddenly present a bill like this for such a vast sum of money with so little time to pay it. And it is an unacceptable way to treat one of the biggest contributors to the European Union.

“It is an appalling way to behave. I am not paying that bill on December 1. If people think I am they have got another thing coming.”

Mr Cameron, who broke into a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels to raise the issue, said the Commission needed to explain where the figure came from.

“We need to make sure the Commission start answering questions about how on earth these numbers were arrived (at),” he said.

“The figures need to be thoroughly investigated, an explanation of how this happened needs to be properly produced.”

The surcharge - which would add almost a fifth to the UK’s annual contribution of £8.6 billion - is intended to reflect Britain’s better-than-expected economic performance relative to other EU states.

It results from an EU recalculation of national incomes dating back to 1995 and taking into account recent changes in the rules to include economic activities such as prostitution and illegal drugs.

Preliminary figures seen by the Financial Times suggest that Britain is facing by far the biggest top-up, while the Netherlands is being asked for an extra 642 million euro (£506 million).

By contrast, Germany receives a rebate of 779 million euro (£614 million), France one billion (£788.7 million) and Poland 316 million (£249 million).

Conservative former Cabinet minister John Redwood said Mr Cameron should refuse to pay - and should amend the law if necessary to make clear the UK regards the demand as “illegal and unacceptable”.

Mr Redwood told the BBC Radio 4’ Today programme: “This is a very large increase in tax on the British people, imposed retrospectively without their permission.

“It offends all our principles of natural justice and fair taxation. The British people are already paying too much tax and he last thing they intend to do is sent another £1.7 billion to the Commission so that they can behave in the way they just have overnight.”

Ukip MEP Patrick O’Flynn said: “The EU’s budget surcharge is effectively asking UK taxpayers to fork out for the disaster of the eurozone. Totally outrageous.”

Conservative MP Mark Pritchard said: “The timing and content of the EU budget demand shows how inept Brussels is. Brussels needs to work with the UK Government, not work against it.

“Unless this behaviour changes, the EU referendum could be brought forward. Europe should not penalise the UK’s economic success whilst rewarding France’s economic failure.”

The surcharge is due for payment on December 1 - just days after the Rochester and Strood vote on November 20.

A Downing Street source made clear that the UK will challenge the demand.

“It’s not acceptable to just change the fees for previous years and demand them back at a moment’s notice,” said the source.

“The European Commission was not expecting this money and does not need this money and we will work with other countries similarly affected to do all we can to challenge this.”

Mr Rutte described the demand for more cash as “an unpleasant surprise (which) raises an awful lot of questions” and said his government will “look at all aspects, including legal ones”.

Commission spokesman Patrizio Fiorilli said the figures were produced by a “mechanical” calculation and the demand was “not politically motivated”.

“Britain’s contribution reflects an increase in wealth, just as in Britain you pay more to the Inland Revenue if your earnings go up,” he said.

The Commission’s demand for additional funding from Britain was strongly criticised by the leader of the Conservative MEPs, Syed Kamall.

“The European Commission is penalising Britain for taking tough decisions, putting in place a long-term economic plan and for having the most successful economy in the EU while actually rewarding France for being an economic basket case,” he said.

“David Cameron is absolutely right to stand up to this attempted daylight robbery by the EU.

“This is outrageous and harms the EU’s relationship with Britain. At times like this, the European Commission can be its own worst enemy.”

Conservative MP Peter Bone said: “We are just being taken for a ride. We are paying more and more in and getting nothing in return.

“Roll on the referendum - this will just strengthen the resolve of the British public to get out of this superstate.

“They are trying to rub David Cameron’s nose in the dirt for for having the audacity to stand up and say freedom of movement is wrong.”

The row over the top-up payments overshadowed other events at the summit, where leaders agreed a deal in the early hours on an EU-wide 40% target for greenhouse gas reductions by 2030.

Mr Cameron also announced an additional £80 million of UK aid for Ebola-hit countries in West Africa, as he tried to shame fellow EU leaders into giving more.

A request by Tory MP Andrew Turner for a Government minister to be required to answer an urgent question in the Commons about the EU demand has been declined by Speaker John Bercow.

Mr Cameron will give his customary post-summit statement to the Commons on Monday.

Shadow Europe minister Pat McFadden said: “It’s unacceptable that the outgoing EU Commission should spring a backdated bill on member states in this way.

“But UK ministers have known about this since last week.

“The Government should be pushing for the best deal possible for the UK. The Prime Minister must now make up for lost time, and should be working in step with other affected member states, including the Netherlands and Italy.

“This is a proposal made by the outgoing EU Commission, and with a new Commission taking office imminently. So it is imperative that David Cameron now urgently discuss this with other member states, and urges the incoming EU Commission to look again at the proposed change.

“Labour argued against the proposed increase in EU spending in 2012, and voted for a real-terms cut in the EU budget then. We have argued for reform of the EU budget, including a greater focus on generating growth and jobs, and for the EU to undertake a zero-based review of all spending by EU agencies.”

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said: “David Cameron once claimed that he had reduced the EU budget - but the UK contribution went up - and now, quite incredibly, our contribution goes up a second time. It’s just outrageous.

“The EU is like a thirsty vampire feasting on UK taxpayers’ blood. We need to protect the innocent victims, who are us.”

Mr Farage told the Press Association that Mr Cameron is in “real political trouble”.

“Yes, it’s outrageous, but that’s how the European Union works,” he said.

“He’s in a very weak position. He can do nothing about this.

“And I think, really, he’s now being pushed into a position where, unless he brings forward his referendum promise, I think he’s in real political trouble.”

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder said: “Just as pro-EU sentiment in UK reaches a 23-year high, Commission clumsily gives Eurosceptics an open goal with budget request.