Page last updated at 05:40 GMT, Tuesday, 25 August 2009 06:40 UK

Place in EU 'to cost UK 60% more'

Flags outside the European Parliament
The UK contributed 4.1bn to the EU budget in 2009/10

The UK's net contribution to the European Union will rise by almost 60% next year, the Treasury has said.

The cost of membership will rise to £6.4bn - equivalent to about £260 per UK household - from £4.1bn in 2009/10.

The Treasury said it was right for the UK "to share the burden of membership with new accession countries".

But the Tories say the rising bill is evidence of "Labour's incompetence" in the midst of a recession.

Rebate

The BBC's Chris Mason said ministers knew the bill was coming, but perhaps had not anticipated just how severe the economic downturn would be when it arrived.

A spokesman for the Treasury said the increase had been fully and openly discussed in Parliament.

"The prime minister has made clear our belief is that it is right for us to share the burden of membership of the European Union with the new accession countries so that every part of the European Union can look forward to prosperity in the future," he added.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

In 1984, then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher secured a refund - or rebate - for the UK on a part of its contribution to the EU budget.

It was worth about £3bn a year and was designed to make up for difference between what the UK paid in and what it got back.

The main reason for this discrepancy was that the UK had relatively few farms, so it got a small share of farm subsidies, which at the time made up 70% of budget expenditure.

But in 2005, under pressure from new, poorer EU member states from Eastern Europe, Tony Blair renegotiated the rebate - resulting in it being cut by about 20%.

That was the equivalent of about £7bn between 2007 and 2013.

The Conservatives say this latest increase in the UK's contribution proves that successive Labour governments have given away far too much to Europe.

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Philip Hammond said: "The consequences of Labour's rebate sell-out are becoming clear.

"Gordon Brown and Tony Blair signed billions of pounds of our money away.

"At a time when our economy is in recession and public service budgets are under pressure, Labour's incompetence is allowing billions of pounds to be siphoned off to Brussels."



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