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UK's Osborne defiant over EU budget payment in Brussels

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George Osborne who suffered a fresh blow today as the six-year squeeze on earnings growth was blamed for the latest official figures showing a widening hole in the public finances. Photo: PA

George Osborne who suffered a fresh blow today as the six-year squeeze on earnings growth was blamed for the latest official figures showing a widening hole in the public finances. Photo: PA

PA

George Osborne who suffered a fresh blow today as the six-year squeeze on earnings growth was blamed for the latest official figures showing a widening hole in the public finances. Photo: PA

UK CHANCELLOR George Osborne struck a defiant tone this morning ahead of a meeting of European finance ministers, insisting the demand for Britain to pay an extra €2bn to the EU budget was unacceptable.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron appeared surprised when the country was hit with the bill last month, due for payment at the beginning of December, and vowed to challenge it.

Finance Ministers meeting in Brussels today are expected to thrash out a compromise deal that would see the UK paying up over instalments throughout next year.

''The demand that Britain pays £1.7bn on December 1 is unacceptable. I wanted that discussed at this meeting of European finance ministers, I wanted it on the agenda, it is on the agenda and I will make sure that we get a better deal for Britain,'' Mr Osborne told reporters.

On October 17, UK Prime Minister David Cameron was presented with the bill for an increased contribution to the European budget, based on revised UK economic figures which showed Britain's economy had been in better shape than thought.

The demand for payment has caused huge political fallout for the British government.

Yesterday, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said he had no objection to the UK government settling the bill over instalments.

''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,'' he said, ahead of a meeting of Eurozone finance ministers.

He also said no interest charges would need to be levied.

The row has put Mr Cameron, who told parliament he will not pay the bill in full, under pressure from Eurosceptics at home in the run-up to a general election in May.

His EU counterparts are sympathetic to Britain because the bill is unusually large as it results from a statistical review stretching back over a decade.

But Mr Osborne's counterparts and EU officials say it is out of the question to let Britain contribute less, despite Mr Cameron's promise to the British parliament that will not pay "anything like" the full amount.

A political deal is expected today and the technical details will be worked out at another meeting later this month in Brussels, before the December 1 payment deadline.

Online Editors