Brussels: EU ministers discussed a formal plan on Friday to allow Britain to pay in instalments a 2.1-billion-euro surcharge imposed by Brussels, after London refused to pay the bill by a December 1 deadline, sources said.
The proposal has been introduced by Italy, which holds the rotating presidency of the 28-nation European Union, and would also help out The Netherlands, which has been landed with a large bill under the same process.
British Prime Minister David Cameron reacted furiously after the surcharge emerged at an EU summit last month, saying he would not pay the bill, which is based on a recalculation of member states` budgets over several years.
The plan to be discussed by ministers on Friday, the contents of which were confirmed to AFP by a European source, covers "exceptional circumstances" under which member states face large budget surcharges.
"This should allow for the Member State concerned to defer the required payment over a reasonable period of time," it says, although the length of the delay was not specified in the proposal.
British Finance Minister George Osborne vowed to get a "better deal" for his country as he arrived for the meeting.
"The demand that Britain pays £1.7 billion on the 1st of December is unacceptable," he said.
"I wanted that discussed at this meeting of European finance ministers. I wanted it on the agenda, it is on the agenda and I will make sure that we get a better deal for Britain."
Britain is particularly angered by the fact that France and Germany will benefit from large payouts from the budget recalculation.
The Netherlands faces a 642-million-euro bill under the same process, and finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said he was "working closely with the British government."
"I haven`t seen the solution yet but everyone is helping to find it so I`m optimistic," he said.
On the timing of the instalments, Irish finance minister Michael Noonan said Thursday that he would be open to member states paying by the end of 2015 in instalments.