Lord Hill calls for calm in row over EU bill

The question over Britain's membership of the EU is at a 'lively stage' and is a 'boil that needs to be lanced', Lord Hill said. Picture: Getty

The question over Britain's membership of the EU is at a 'lively stage' and is a 'boil that needs to be lanced', Lord Hill said. Picture: Getty

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BRITAIN’S new European Commissioner has called for “calm” in the row over the £1.7 billion bill being demanded by Brussels.

Lord Hill said the demand had become “highly political” but it was time to look for a “practical” solution.

The question over Britain’s membership of the EU is at a “lively stage” and is a “boil that needs to be lanced”, the Conservative peer added.

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Chancellor George Osborne will meet finance ministers from the other 27 EU states in Brussels tomorrow to begin a review of the bills that have hit the UK and other losers, such as the Netherlands and Italy.

Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted the UK will not pay “anything like” the £1.7 billion demanded by the European Union by December 1.

Lord Hill, the EU commissioner for financial services, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It seems to me that this is one of those classic examples you get from time to time where something that a group of people think are technical matters suddenly, and in this case for perfectly understandable reasons, become highly political.

“The sensible thing now is to try to calm the situation down, and to look at the facts, and to look at a practical solution to the challenges that various member states face.”

Lord Hill said his job means he is required to act in the interests of all 28 member states, not just Britain.

Britain - which is facing by far the biggest surcharge - has been seeking allies among other EU states for a rethink of the contributions, but is likely to face stiff resistance from states which gain, including France, which is in line for a billion euro (£788.7 million) rebate, and Germany, which stands to receive 779 million euro (£614 million).

Lord Hill said Brussels needs to do a “smaller number of bigger things better” instead of “intruding” into areas of national life.

He told the programme: “My view is that on the back of a reform process Britain would want to choose to stay in the EU.

“Obviously that’s a choice for the people of Britain, there’s democratic process to go through if we have that referendum. But I think it is good to address that question, I think there is a boil that needs to be lanced.”

He added: “We have a tendency in Britain to think of all these issues as though they only affect Britain, British exceptionalism, if I can call it that.

“The fact is, when I sit here and look across the EU and what’s happening in other countries, many other countries have very similar debates.”

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