As European finance ministers met in Brussels, the British government claimed a victory in its big budget bill row with the European Commission.
The UK was balking at a 2.1 billion euro budget contribution demanded by the end of the year following a review of national statistics which found Britain was wealthier relative to other EU countries.
Now London says a compromise has been reached for reduced and delayed payments.
The British finance minister George Osborne told reporters: “We have halved the bill, we have delayed the bill, we will pay no interest on the bill, and if there are mistakes in the bill we will get our money back. We have also changed permanently the rules of the European Union so this never happens again.”
That is not how EU officials see it.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs meetings of eurozone finance ministers, said: “No discount has been awarded” explaining
this is merely a reshuffling of what Britain owes so it gets earlier access to a rebate London was due to receive next year.
Kristalina Georgieva, the EU budget commissioner, told a news conference the historic adjustment to national income meant Britain would still have to pay the additional amount it owed but that would be offset by a similarly increased rebate.
“As a result of the adjustment, the UK has to pay more but also as a result the UK rebate will go up. Preliminary calculations show it will be around one billion euros,” she said of the increase in the rebate next year when payments are made.