-  Thursday 21 March 2019

New deal adds 208m to Britain's EU bill

British taxpayers face paying an extra £208 million to the European Union after a late-night deal was struck by EU representatives to add billions to the budget compromise agreed by Tony Blair.

 Under extraordinary pressure to reach a deal at an EU summit last December, Mr Blair surrendered £7 billion from Britain's EU rebate, without winning any commitment from France to early reform of farm subsidies.

Mr Blair chaired that budget summit, in almost his last act as holder of the rotating presidency of the EU. On Jan 1, that presidency passed to Austria, one of the countries most critical of British attempts to rein in EU spending, as leaders thrashed out a budget deal for the years 2007 to 2013.

True to form, the Austrian presidency this week presided over a closed-door meeting with the European Commission, and selected leaders from the European Parliament, aimed at satisfying MEPs' demands for extra spending. It was agreed to expand the budget by up to £2.68 billion to a new "ceiling" of £579 billion.

Britain's share of that increase comes to an extra £208 million, over and above the £42 billion agreed for the seven-year period.

Foreign ministers are expected to sign off the increased budget next week.


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