The startling demand came in October 2014 as then Prime Minister David Cameron came under pressure from leaders in Brussels. As the UK's economy ha
The startling demand came in October 2014 as then Prime Minister David Cameron came under pressure from leaders in Brussels. As the UK’s economy had performed better than expected, the Government was told to fork out an extra £1.7billion (€2.1billion) towards the EU’s budget. The new figure added around fifth to the UK’s annual net contribution of £8.6billion at the time. A Government source said the demand was “not acceptable” while one Tory MP said the UK should simply refuse to pay it.
The Government source added: “It’s not acceptable to just change the fees for previous years and demand them back at a moment’s notice.”
Then Ukip leader Nigel Farage said the UK had been “hammered again” while Labour said it was imperative that the European Commission must reconsider the “backdated bill”.
As the BBC highlighted at the time, the Netherlands and Italy also had big bills to pay, and even struggling Greece saw its contribution go up.
Meanwhile, both Germany and France were set to get a rebate – €1billion (£906million) for the French.
The Downing Street spokesperson added at the time: “The European Commission was not expecting this money and does not need this money and we will work with other countries similarly affected to do all we can to challenge this.”
Meanwhile, as calls for legal challenge grew, an EU source told the Telegraph this would be very difficult.
They said: “This at the Commission’s discretion. It is automatic, there is nothing Britain can do about it.”
Mark Rutte, the Dutch Prime Minister, was said to be onside, after the Netherlands was also asked to make a top-up payment of £507million.
A Commission spokesperson said: “Britain’s contribution reflects an increase in wealth, just as in Britain you pay more to the Inland Revenue if your earnings go up.”
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Speaking to broadcasters as he prepared to meet the then European Council President, Donald Tusk, at the G7 summit in Biarritz, Mr Johnson said: “If we come out without an agreement it is certainly true that the £39billion is no longer, strictly speaking, owed.”
Now the UK is out of the EU and further down the transition period, the bill may not be as large as the £39billion figure.
BBC Reality Check and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimated when the Brexit date was October 31, 2019, that the bill had fallen to £32.8billion.
The OBR estimated in January that the bill stood at just under £30billion – most of this to be paid by 2022, with some relatively small payments still being made until the 2060s.