Britain accepts it will have to pay EU exit bill

The UK acknowledged for the first time that it will have to pay money to the European Union as it withdraws from the bloc

14 July 2017, 8:25am
The text, released by Joyce Anelay, was immediately seen by Brussels as a potentially important development
The text, released by Joyce Anelay, was immediately seen by Brussels as a potentially important development
Britain has for the first time explicitly acknowledged it has financial obligations to the EU after Brexit, a move that is likely to avert a full-scale clash over the exit bill in talks next week.

In a written statement to parliament touching on a “financial settlement”, the British government recognised “that the UK has obligations to the EU, and the EU obligations to the UK, that will survive the UK’s withdrawal — and that these need to be resolved”.

“The government has been clear that we will work with the EU to determine a fair settlement of the UK’s rights and obligations as a departing member state,” Brexit Minister Joyce Anelay, a member of the House of Lords, said Thursday in the written statement.

Anelay’s statement contrasts with the more bellicose tone taken by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson just two days prior, as he was answering questions in parliament. Johnson agreed with euro-sceptic Tory lawmaker Philip Hollobone who suggested the foreign secretary should “make it clear to the EU that if it wants a penny piece more” from Britain as part of the Brexit settlement, “it can go whistle.”

Johnson added that “the sums that I have seen that they propose to demand from this country seem to me to be extortionate, and I think that to ‘go whistle’ is an entirely appropriate expression.”

As negotiators prepared for a round of talks on Monday, Britain’s exit liabilities — estimated by the EU to stand at up to €100 billion gross — were proving one of the biggest flashpoints.

With Britain’s exit set for March 2019, negotiators on both sides feared a protracted stand-off over money would waste valuable time and delay the point at which the EU decides “sufficient progress” has been made to start trade talks.

However, the text was immediately seen by Brussels as a potentially important development. EU diplomats say the wording “goes further” than Theresa May’s previous reference to Britain being willing to reach a “fair settlement” of unspecified obligations.