George Osborne turned up on TV today, buoyed up by a cloud of his own smugness, announcing that thanks to his amazing Chancellorial skills, the UK will have to pay only half of the £1.7bn budget surcharge demanded by the European Union.
What he didn’t say – at least, not in as many words – was that this was because the EU would be applying a previously-agreed rebate to the charge. It isn’t that the UK will be paying less; simply that the EU won’t be giving back the money that we were due.
It’s as Jacek Dominik, EU Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget, said on October 27: “Let me point out in this respect that the UK will benefit from the UK rebate for the additional payments in 2014. This will be budgeted in May 2015 when the UK rebate is recalculated.”
Bloomberg News carried a more accurate account than Osborne offered the BBC, stating that “EU finance ministers agreed in principle today to stretch out Britain’s payment of a 2.1 billion-euro ($2.6 billion) bill until September 2015, while leaving the U.K.’s overall contributions to the EU untouched.”
This story made it clear that “Britain failed to win a cut in an extra budget payment demanded by the European Union, complicating Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to fend off an anti-EU movement at home.
“The U.K. will pay the whole amount without any penalties attached or interest rates,” Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan told reporters after the Brussels meeting. “The installments will be paid over a period of time.”
Now let’s go to Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls. Does he think Osborne did a good job? “David Cameron and George Osborne are trying to take the British people for fools.”
Apparently not. “Ministers have failed to get a better deal for the British taxpayer. Not a single penny has been saved for the taxpayer compared to two weeks ago when David Cameron was blustering in Brussels.
“By counting the rebate Britain was due anyway they are desperately trying to claim that the backdated bill for £1.7 billion has somehow been halved. But nobody will fall for this smoke and mirrors. The rebate was never in doubt and in fact was confirmed by the EU Budget Commissioner last month.
“The fact is the Treasury knew about this issue for weeks and weeks, but the Chancellor was asleep on the job. And David Cameron and George Osborne have totally failed to make the alliances we need in Europe to get a better deal for the British taxpayer.”
So the UK is still paying full whack – albeit amortised over a period of time – and George Osborne is a miserable liar.
Vox Political is delighted to have that cleared up.
Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike
Join the Vox Political Facebook page.
Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
(but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:
Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
commenting on the news as it happens!
Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:
The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here: