Britain's Cameron disrupts summit over EU cash demand

British Prime Minister David Cameron upstaged an EU summit on Friday over a demand from Brussels for extra budget billions from member states, overshadowing talks meant to tackle Europe's stalling economy.

AFP| Last Updated: Oct 24, 2014, 19:31 PM IST

Brussels: British Prime Minister David Cameron upstaged an EU summit on Friday over a demand from Brussels for extra budget billions from member states, overshadowing talks meant to tackle Europe's stalling economy.

A furious Cameron demanded an emergency finance ministers' meeting after London faced a 2.1-billion-euro (USD 2.6 billion) bill because its economy is thriving, boosted by new measures which include prostitution and drug activity, while Europe's stalls.

The clash renews questions over Britain's vexed membership of the 28-member European Union, which Cameron has vowed to put to a referendum in 2017 if he wins a general election next May.

Other states including the Netherlands, Finland and even bailed-out Greece and Ireland were also on the hook and expressed their anger at the surcharges, which arose from a recalculation of EU budgets.

The clash overshadowed another battle over budgets, this time involving France and Italy, which have said they will break new EU spending rules created to avoid a repetition of the eurozone debt crisis.

It also took the limelight from a landmark EU deal on climate change targets for 2030 and a pledge to give one billion euros in aid to West Africa to combat the Ebola virus.

Today's session of the two-day summit was meant to focus on a much-talked about promise by incoming European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker to unveil a 300-billion-euro (USD 380-billion) investment plan by Christmas.

But Cameron "made an intervention" on the budget demand, a British government source told AFP. "He said there needed to be a discussion of the 28 finance ministers, a meeting of the finance ministers to discuss it."

Adding insult to injury in British eyes, France will be owed 1.0 billion euros by the EU while Germany, the bloc's most powerful and richest economy, gets a rebate of 779 million euros.

The British premier told Jose Manuel Barroso, the head of the European Commission, the EU's vast executive branch, that Barroso "had no idea of the impact" of the surcharge, another British source said.

Cameron has promised an in-out referendum on EU membership in late 2017 to curb a growing threat to his Conservative party from the eurosceptic leader Nigel Farage.

Festering in the background, is long-standing resentment in some EU states that Britain has retained a big budget rebate obtained by former prime Minister Margaret Thatcher because the British economy was then relatively weak.