LONDON — The European Union is set to demand a Brexit “divorce bill” from Britain that is €40 billion (£33.8 billion) higher than previously stated, the Financial Times reports.
The FT says on Wednesday that its own calculations of new demands from EU member states such as France, Germany, and Poland put the Brexit bill at between €91 billion (£77 billion) and €113 billion (£95.6 billion). This is matched by a similar estimate from Brussels think tank Bruegel, which puts the bill at up t0 €109 billion (£92.2 billion).
Both estimates are above the €60 billion (£50.8 billion) settlement that was previously proposed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
The rise reflects the hardening position of many EU members states, who have added to demands for payments from Britain — up to €15 billion (£12.7 billion) of farm related payments, for example — and want Britain to lose rights to share in EU assets as part of Brexit, which would have brought down the net bill.
Brexit negotiations have not yet begun but tensions between the two sides are already rising. An extensive leak of a meeting between Juncker and Theresa May appeared in the German press over the weekend, depicting Juncker as dismayed at May’s position on Brexit negotiations. He reportedly told May as he left the dinner: “I leave Downing Street 10 times more sceptical than I was before.”
Downing Street has reacted furiously to the leaks and Theresa May hit back on Tuesday by telling the BBC she will be “a bloody difficult woman” in talks with Juncker.
The EU wants Britain to agree on a divorce bill before any substantive talks begin on other aspects of Brexit and well before any talk of trade can begin.
While the EU wants Britain to pay a large up-front settlement as part of Brexit talks, the net total could be reduced over time is Britain receives reimbursements from the 27-member bloc once it has left.
Zsolt Darvas, a senior fellow at Bruegel, says in the think tank’s Brexit bill paper: “The size of the Brexit bill will depend on fundamental political compromises and choices. The key question is whether one considers Brexit to be a cancellation of a club membership or a divorce.
“In the former case, the UK would have no claims on any EU assets but would still need to pay its outstanding membership fees. In the latter case, both assets and liabilities would have to be split.”