The Government exaggerated its victories in delaying payment of an EU surcharge based on the UK’s recovery from the economic crisis, according to the Treasury select committee.
The £1.7bn bill was revealed in late October, following the UK’s better than expected economic recovery.
After negotiations, Chancellor George Osborne reported in November that payment would be delayed to two instalments in July and September, while also bringing forward a rebate worth around £1bn from 2016 to 2015, meaning the UK only pays £850m in total.
However, TSC chairman Andrew Tyrie says the Government’s claim the bill had been halved is not backed up by the facts.
He says: “The suggestion that the £1.7bn bill demanded by the European Union was halved is not supported by published information.
“The terms of the UK’s rebate calculation are set out in EU law. It should, therefore, have been clear that the rebate would apply.
“The Government got a good deal for the UK by securing an interest-free delay to the EU bill. But by overstating its success on the rebate, it distracted attention from this achievement.”
In particular, the TSC questions Osborne’s claim there was “real doubt” and “absolutely no certainty” that the rebate would apply,
The TSC says: “The calculation of the rebate, and the circumstances in which it applies, are embedded in EU law.
“It does not appear to the committee that these documents left a great deal of room for uncertainty.”