Downing Street denies UK willing to pay €40 billion Brexit divorce bill

Downing Street has dismissed the idea of paying a Brexit divorce bill of up to €40 billion, as leading supporters said they would not accept handing over such a large sum

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

The UK government has insisted it will pay “no more than it needs to” in its divorce settlement with the EU, playing down a report that it would offer €40 billion if the bloc agreed to start negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal.

British Prime Minister Theresa May was reported to be willing to pay that amount as the price for getting on with trade talks and an exit deal.

The sum would be a compromise, because Brussels has demanded about €60 billion. The €40 billion figure would still be the equivalent of several years of contributions to the EU budget, which would continue to be paid after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.
A report in the Sunday Telegraph said the UK planned to offer £36 billion — or €40 billion — partly in the form of continuing budget contributions during a three-year transition deal after Brexit. But the offer would be conditional on the EU abandoning its strict sequencing of the negotiations, under which officials have refused to discuss trade until a settlement is agreed on citizens’ rights, the divorce bill and Northern Ireland.

A Downing Street source, however, said the figure was “inaccurate speculation”, playing down the idea that such a high bill would be acceptable to the government or Brexit voters.

“As the secretary of state for Exiting the European Union has made clear, we will meet our international responsibilities but the UK will not pay more than it needs to,” a government spokesman said.

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.

The issue of payments to the EU is a huge political problem for No 10, partly because the Brexit campaign mentioned recouping £350 million a week from Brussels to put towards the NHS.

At the same time, the EU will not progress to the next stage of talks on the future relationship until it deems that “sufficient progress” has been made on the financial settlement.

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