David Cameron has furiously insisted that the UK will not pay £1.7bn being demanded by the European Union, suggesting Britain is being pushed towards the exit door.
Following a meeting in Helsinki today, Chancellor George Osborne confirmed that the UK will only have to pay half of the £1.7bn budget surcharge.
He said: “If people think I am paying that bill on the 1st December, they have another thing coming. It is not going to happen.”
Former Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the demand should ‘not have come as a surprise’ to the UK.
He stated it was made under a system agreed by all the member states and based on data provided by them.
EU finance ministers have approved the UK’s request for urgent discussions about the top-up instalment, which would add almost a fifth to the UK’s net EU contribution of £8.6bn this year.
Mr Cameron said: “We are not going suddenly to get out our cheque book and write a cheque for 2bn euros. It is not going to happen.”
He added that he was ‘downright angry’ and said the British public would find the ‘vast’ sum ‘totally unacceptable’ on account of the 10% anti-Europe swing among voters.
But do they find it unacceptable? SW Londoner hit the streets to find out.
Is David Cameron right to refuse to pay the £1.6bn bill to the EU?
Lucy McMillan, 28, a HR manager from Vauxhall, believes that David Cameron has a responsibility to the European Union and all the member states.
“It’s shocking that he’s shirking his duties. No other country has refused to cough up so why should we? We can’t just let everyone down,” she said.
This opinion is reflected by former UK Chancellor Ken Clarke, one of the most pro-European voices in the Conservative Party.
He said: “If you want to keep the EU intact as an economic entity, you have to pay your contributions.”
The same argument was put forward by James Simonson, 47, an IT consultant from Mitcham, who said: “David Cameron needs to stop his euro-scepticism – we all need to stay together. He’s only doing it to appeal to UKIP voters. He’s only in it for himself.”
However Rosie Hind, 29, who works for a PR company in South Kensington, agreed with David Cameron’s statement.
She said: “Yes, he’s definitely right to refuse. We seem to put in a lot more money than we gain. We’re a massive part of the EU and it’s ridiculous that we should be expected to pay even more money.”
David Cameron has appealed for a reformed EU in line with these financial difficulties and argued that the row was a prime example of where the EU needs to show more flexibility and respond to voters’ concerns.
James Fox, 23, a decorator from Tooting, said: “They’re mugging us off by asking us for that amount of money when this country is broke anyway. Who do they think they are?
“I don’t think we should leave the EU but things really need to change.”
It seems both the pay-out to Europe and Britain’s membership in the EU created a considerable divide among SW Londoners.
Perhaps if David Cameron has his way the EU membership referendum will be brought forward, giving all of us a chance to decide once and for all.
Image courtesy of Celso FLORES.jpg