It takes the mainstream media a while to catch up, maybe, but they get there in the end. Here’s The Guardian:
The government has accepted a £1.7bn top-up bill to the EU budget despite repeatedly denouncing its size as unacceptable.
The chancellor asserted that a bill for £1.7bn was now one for £850m – to be paid by 1 September next year in two instalments, one by the deadline, the other in July.
While insisting that the invoice had been reduced, Treasury aides conceded that Britain will pay the £850m while also returning the rebate cheque to Brussels, meaning that the full £1.7bn will still be paid.
British officials argued that it had not been clear whether the UK would qualify for a rebate since Brussels dropped the bombshell bill. But that would have been unique since Britain’s gross contributions to the EU budget have automatically benefitted from the rebate since the 1980s.
Osborne’s claims that the bill had been halved were refuted by other participants in the meeting.
“The sum cannot be challenged. We said this and so did many others,” said the Austrian finance minister, Hans Jörg Schelling. Luis De Guindos, the Spanish finance minister, said the same.
A further Guardian article had more criticism from EU ministers:
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who chairs the group of eurozone finance ministers, said: “Britain has had a rebate system for a very long time.” He added: “No discount was awarded.”
Kristalina Georgieva, commission vice-president in charge of budgetary affairs with whom Osborne negotiated, said: “As we all know the UK receives a rebate on their contribution.”
Daniel Hannan, a Tory MEP who wants Britain to leave the EU told PM on BBC Radio 4 that it was “incredible” for the Treasury to claim it had to fight to allow the rebate to apply to the £1.7bn demand.
“I just don’t believe that no one in the Treasury knew that the rebate would apply here. That is, in the literal narrow sense of the word, incredible.”
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