BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EU finance ministers are likely to let Britain pay a hefty new bill to Brussels in interest-free instalments, but rule out any reduction in the surcharge, triggered by historic revisions to national income data, officials told Reuters on Wednesday.
The row over the 2.1 billion euro (1.6 billion pounds) demand for payment with little more than a month’s notice has put British Prime Minister David Cameron under pressure from Eurosceptics at home in the run-up to a national election in May.
It has also further strained relations between Britain and the EU ahead of a possible referendum on Britain’s membership in 2017 if Cameron wins the election.
Cameron, who lambasted EU technocrats over the issue at a summit in Brussels two weeks ago, has found sympathy from Italy, Germany and France because of what one official described as “the unprecedented result” of the statistical review.
But new European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, whose appointment Britain tried to block, told the European Parliament on Tuesday that he did not like Cameron’s vivid display of anger over the budget bill at the end of the summit.
On Wednesday, Juncker told a news conference Cameron’s tactics were putting London at a disadvantage. “I don’t have a problem with David Cameron,” Juncker said. “He has a problem with the other prime ministers.”
Officials believe a compromise is possible by granting Britain permission to pay instalments monthly, quarterly or at some other rate over the coming months. London would avoid the interest charges that would accrue daily from Dec. 1, at an initial annual rate of 2.5 percent, if it failed to pay in full.
Read more at Reuters