“If people think I am paying that bill on 1 December, they have another thing coming,” the Prime Minister told reporters in Brussels. He said the EU demand was “totally unacceptable” and no way for the organisation to behave – and he want to examine how they arrived at the amount.
EU Finance Ministers have agreed to the UK’s request for emergency talks.
Mr Cameron told reporters in Brussels that the British public would find the “vast” sum of money asked of the EU was “totally unacceptable.” He said that he first heard about the EU’s demands on Thursday but acknowledged that the Treasury knew about it last week.
He interrupted a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels to express dismay at the demand for the UK to pay more into the EU’s coffers on 1 December. He told Commission boss Jose Manuel Barroso he had no idea of the impact it would have, Downing Street said.
EU leaders discussed the issue for an hour in Brussels on Friday. Mr Cameron told Mr Barroso, who steps down next month, that the problem was not just press or public opinion but was about the amount of money being demanded.
The surcharge follows an annual review of the economic performance of EU member states since 1995, which showed Britain has done better than previously thought. Elements of the black economy – such as drugs and prostitution – have also been included in the calculations for the first time.
The UK and the Netherlands are among those being asked to pay more, while France and Germany are both set to receive rebates. The UK is being asked to pay the most.
Several Conservative MPs have said the UK should refuse to pay the sum, describing it as “illegal.”
EU diplomats told Reuters that Finance Ministers would meet to discuss the issue, while Downing Street is pressing for “a full political-level discussion” well before 1 December. It is not clear whether there will be a separate meeting or whether the issue will be discussed at a scheduled meeting of EU finance ministers next month.
Chancellor George Osborne said the Treasury had first learnt about the “totally unacceptable” financial demand last week. The UK and other member states had been given “no warning” that the sum was due by the end of next month and the UK was now “looking at its options” in consultation with its allies in Europe.
Mr Osborne said, “This is not the way an organisation like the European Union should act.”