David Cameron refuses to pay 'completely unacceptable' £1.7bn EU bill

Prime Minister confirmed he will not pay the EU extra £1.7 billion

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The Independent Online

An angry David Cameron was on a collision course with the European Commission this afternoon as he flatly refused to agree to a demand that Britain hand over an extra £1.7bn by 1 December.

The Prime Minister said he had only learned of the surprise surcharge, which he denounced as “completely unacceptable”, at the beginning of an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels.

He told a press conference: “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.”

The €2.1bn surcharge is being levied because the UK economy has fared more strongly than other member states since 1995. It would add nearly a fifth to the UK’s annual contribution to the EU of £8.6bn.

The Prime Minister made clear his determination to challenge the extra fee and an emergency meeting of EU finance ministers is to be held next week.

He has already started gathering support among the other nine countries, including Italy and the Netherlands, which have been also hit with an unexpected demand for more money. He also said there could be a legal challenge to the Commission’s move.

Mr Cameron, who broke into a meeting of EU leaders 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.”

He also warned that such moves played into the hands of people arguing for Britain to leave the EU.

“When you are presented with a bill for that, is that helpful for Britain’s membership of the EU? No, is it not.”