British EU bill likely in installments, ministers say

6th November 2014, Comments 0 comments

European finance ministers said Thursday they were hopeful of ending a row over demands for back payments from Britain, saying that paying the bill in instalments was a likely option.

Prime Minister David Cameron has refused to pay Britain's 2.

1-billion-euro ($2.

6-billion) bill by the December 1 deadline, saying it is "unacceptable" and made it more likely Britain would vote to leave the EU in a referendum planned for 2017.

The Netherlands meanwhile faces a bill for 642 million euros.

Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan said as he arrived for a meeting of his counterparts in Brussels that a compromise was likely, amid concern that the row could hasten Britain towards the EU exit door.

"What I hear is that they don't want to pay everything on December 1," he told reporters.

"I don't have any objection to Britain to settle their bill by (the end of) 2015 .

on an installment basis.

"Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who is also head of the Eurogroup of nations that use the single currency, called for "flexibility" over the demand for money from his country.

"The Netherlands wants, first of all, to have full information on the figures.

Then we want flexibility over the payment.

It is a very short timescale for such a big demand," he said.

"Finally, what we want to avoid is having this problem in the future.

"France's finance minister Michel Sapin also called for a flexible approach.

"I think that we can find solutions that allow everyone to pay what they have to pay, but under conditions that respect them," he told reporters.

"I support respect for the rules, all the rules, with the flexibility that they include.

"The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, has said that any country failing to pay by December 1 will face penalties.

They would have to pay 2.

5 percent to begin with, rising by 0.

25 percentage points each month the money is unpaid, starting from January 1, 2015.

EU sources said that ministers were due to discuss the issue on Thursday and Friday, and that they were then likely ask the commission to draw up a formal proposal.

The issue has triggered a row within the EU, with commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker accusing Cameron of having a "problem" with other leaders after the British premier brought it up at a summit in October.

© 2014 AFP

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