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After saying 'no way, we won't pay', UK agrees to half of €2bn bill from Europe

And they don’t have to pay until September 2015.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

EU FINANCE MINISTERS have agreed to extend a deadline for Britain to pay a €2.1 billion until September 2015, with finance minister George Osborne hailing it as a victory in his country’s latest showdown with Brussels.

Prime Minister David Cameron had refused to meet the “unacceptable” demand by the original December 1 cut-off, and the new deadline means he will not have to pay before tense general elections in Britain in May.

Osborne said Britain would only pay back half the amount in two instalments next year, because of arrangements involving London’s cherished rebate from the EU, but other European sources insisted the amount was the same.

“This is far beyond what anyone expected us to achieve, and it’s a result for Britain,” Osborne told reporters after a meeting his counterparts in Brussels.

The original bill was based on a recalculation of member states’ budgets over several years, but only emerged at a summit in late October, giving Britain only a few weeks to pay up.

France and Germany were set for large payouts under the new rules, while the Netherlands and Italy faced payment demands that were smaller than that of Britain.

A furious Cameron had warned that the budget bill, which emerged suddenly at a summit in October, could cause his increasingly eurosceptic country’s exit from the EU in a 2017 referendum.

His Conservative party is under intense pressure from the eurosceptic UK Independence Party ahead of next year’s elections, leading him to make a series of increasingly strident demands from Brussels.

Osborne said that Britain would only pay £850 million in two instalments in July and September next year, adding that the rest would be offset against a full upfront payment of the £3 billion annual rebate negotiated by premier Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

- © AFP, 2014

Cameron: ‘No way are we paying a surprise bill from the EU for €2bn’ >

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