Osborne to Discuss EU Budget Surcharge With SchaeubleSvenja O’Donnell
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne will discuss Britain’s objections to planned European Union budget surcharges with his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schaeuble, this week.
Prime Minister David Cameron reiterated in a statement to Parliament today he’ll refuse to pay Britain’s 2.1 billion-euro ($2.7 billion) bill -- an additional contribution to the EU budget based on relative economic performance -- when it comes due Dec. 1. He called the demand, made public at an EU summit in Brussels last week, “unacceptable.”
“The chancellor will be taking the opportunity in bilateral discussions to discuss that point” with Schaeuble when he attends a conference organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Berlin this week, Cameron’s spokesman, Jean-Christophe Gray, told reporters in London today. The surcharge will be on the agenda of the next scheduled finance ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Nov. 7, he said.
Cameron suggested today that some payment may be made in future, telling lawmakers that the U.K. is “not paying a sum anything like that” and that “Britain will not be paying 2 billion euros to anyone on Dec. 1 and we reject this scale of payment.”
Gray also said there may be an opportunity for Osborne to discuss the issue with other European finance ministers attending the OECD event over the next two days in Berlin, as Britain is “not the only country to have raised concerns as to the unacceptability of this.”
Cameron’s comments came after the Dutch government clarified its position, with Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem saying yesterday it’s prepared to pay the additional contribution after checking the amount has been calculated properly. Prime Minister Mark Rutte joined the U.K. last week in expressing concern about the surcharge at the meeting of EU leaders.
Cameron has promised a referendum on EU membership by 2017 if his Conservative Party wins the next election in May. The premier, who is fighting challenges on Britain’s relationship with the EU from within his party and from the U.K. Independence Party, said the demand hadn’t helped the cause of those who want the U.K. to stay in the 28-nation bloc, telling Parliament today the demand “will not have enhanced the reputation of the EU in the U.K.”
“I was surprised by the reaction, because up to this moment, there was no single signal from the U.K. administration that they had a problem with this figure,” EU Budget Commissioner Jacek Dominik told reporters in Brussels today. “If you open this up for further negotiation, you open up a Pandora’s box.”