Brexit: Downing Street responds to claims UK will pay a £36bn divorce bill

Sources told The Independent the figure is 'highly speculative and wrong'

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Sunday 06 August 2017 11:07
Theresa May is set to give a speech later in the summer on divorce proposals
Theresa May is set to give a speech later in the summer on divorce proposals

Downing Street sources have played down reports that the UK is prepared to pay a divorce bill of up to £36bn to try and force progress in stalled Brexit talks.

The figure amounting to some €40bn would be offered in a bid to push discussions on from withdrawal and towards a future trade deal, according to reports.

Theresa May is expected to give a speech towards the end of the summer fleshing out details of any offer to Brussels, while a series of papers are expected in coming weeks on how the UK proposes to manage a transition.

A Number 10 official told The Independent that reports the Government was preparing to offer the EU payments of €10bn every year for up to three years after Brexit were “highly speculative and wrong”.

It was claimed on Sunday that the commitment to the ongoing budget payments would then be supplemented with additional money to make up the €40bn figure that UK negotiators hope will break the deadlock in talks.

The Sunday Telegraph quoted a Whitehall source saying: “We know that [the EU’s] position is €60bn, but the actual bottom line is €50bn.

“Ours is closer to €30bn, but the landing zone is €40bn even if the public and politicians are not all there yet.”

Brexit Secretary David Davis and Ms May have both said that the Government would work with Brussels to determine a fair settlement of the UK's “rights and obligations”.

News of the figure will be controversial among some Conservative MPs who believe the UK should not pay as much, or anything at all. Just three weeks ago Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said EU leaders could “go whistle” if they expected Britain to pay an “exorbitant” divorce bill.

Conservative MP Peter Bone said a £36bn Brexit fee is unlikely to get through Parliament.

He added: “One of the prime reasons the UK voted to leave the EU was to stop sending them billions of pounds per year, so it would be totally bizarre to give the EU any money, let alone £36 billion, given also that over the years that we have been in the EU or its predecessor we have given them, net, over £200 billion.

“So if there was going to be any transfer of money then it should be from the EU to the UK.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for North East Somerset, said: “There is no logic to this figure, legally we owe nothing.”

Michel Barnier seeks clarification over key issues in Brexit talks

Former Cabinet minister John Redwood told LBC Radio it was “completely ridiculous” to suggest the UK would have to pay to get Brussels to talk about trade because the EU "desperately" needed a deal.

But the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned it is “very unlikely” talks can progress in October as planned if there is not better progress.

Ms May is preparing to give a speech close to the start of September in which she is expected to spell out details of the EU withdrawal agreement including a divorce bill.

Positioning papers on how the UK might manage customs arrangements during a transition and the issue of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland are expected as early as next week.

There will also then be a string of other papers detailing various aspects of Ms May’s proposals, including the approach to the single market during transition, as the Government attempts to show it has a solid plan for Brexit.

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