The Prime Minister and Chancellor were right to say the UK will not pay the £1.7 bn the EU demands. The UK does not accept retrospective taxation. We are already paying too much for our membership of the EU, and support for the EU is not strong. The UK and the US that sprung from the UK have long traditions of imposing democratic control over taxation and expecting remedy of grievances before approving more money for the government.
Ministers will now be under enormous pressure to give in, to reach an accommodation. They will be told they have to give in for the sake of UK relations with the EU. They will be told they must not operate illegally. They will be told the UK has to pay the money as it is the inevitable result of our signature on the treaties.
Ministers have more cards than the officials and the EU tell them they have. It does need the UK’s signature on the cheque, which only Ministers backed by Parliament can give. All the time Ministers refuse to sign the EU has a problem.
Conservative Ministers all voted against the last 3 treaties for good reasons. We all thought they went too far and endangered the UK’s relationship with the EU. The UK is not part of the Euro by common consent. We should not be expected to pay ever rising bills for the political structure needed to keep the Euro going. At some point the UK’s unsatisfactory relationship has to be sorted out.
To make sure Ministers do operate legally they should ask Parliament to approve a simple amendment to the 1972 European Communities Act, which would confirm that they are acting legally in not paying retrospective levies. The large majority of the British people have no wish to have to pay a tax rise to send more money to Brussels. Their Parliament should speak for them and back Ministers in saying No.