UK granted delay in EU payment

08 November 2014

The UK was yesterday allowed to defer a payment of 2.1 billion to the EU, The New York Times reported.

According to officials, the UK would receive a rebate of around 1 billion on the payment, an amount that is likely to have been refunded at a later date. The UK would, as a result, be able to use that cash to cut its current expenditure bill.

''We have halved the bill, we have delayed the bill,'' George Osborne, the UK's chancellor of the Exchequer, said after a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels.

However, other ministers said the UK would end up paying the entire amount, as it would have already used up 1 billion of its rebate entitlements.

Osborne ''didn't negotiate a discount today and no discount has been awarded,'' Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister, told reporters, Reuters reported.

According to commentators, the deal, involving a change to European law, would need final approval from member governments. The move sought to protect the interests of an important member government under intense domestic pressure.

However, the willingness of the EU authorities to craft the deal also showed a commitment to help prime minister David Cameron cope with discontent over Europe in the UK.

Meanwhile the BBC reported that George Osborne had defended his claim that the UK's 1.7-billion EU budget surcharge had been halved, after he was accused of "smoke and mirrors".

The UK would pay 850 million in two interest-free amounts next year, instead of 1.7 billion by 1 December, after an EU rebate due in 2016, was apparently brought forward.

According to the chancellor, there had been "real doubt" that the rebate would apply to the surcharge.

According to Labour's Ed Balls, and shadow chancellor of the exchequer, the deal had not saved UK taxpayers, "a single penny".

However, speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, Osborne said it had not been clear before talks in Brussels on Friday that the rebate had been going to apply in full.

He added the truth was that the government  had achieved a real win for UK taxpayers.

The UK rebate is calculated on the basis of changes in national income.

The UK had been due to get a 1 billion rebate in 2015-6 but it would now be allowed to bring that forward to the second half of 2015 to reduce the surcharge.


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