LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May faces a backlash from Conservative MPs after reports that the government is prepared to pay £36 billion (
€40 billion) in financial obligations to the European Union as part of Brexit.
The government is ready to hand over £36 billion when the UK leaves as long as the EU agrees to negotiate the settlement alongside a future trade deal, according to the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
The bill would reportedly be paid in instalments over a period of several years and would not be paid off until after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.
EU figures have made it clear that negotiators on their side will only discuss future trade relations with Britain once “sufficient progress” has been made on the financial settlement, and other issues like the Irish border and rights of EU citizens.
High-profile Eurosceptic MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “I think £36 billion is much too much, we have no legal obligation to pay anything. Accepting the premise that you have to pay to leave the club is fundamentally wrong.”
Fellow Tory backbencher Peter Bone echoed his colleague’s comments, saying: “I think it would be very strange of parliament to pay billions of pounds to leave an organisation that you have given hundreds of billions of pounds to and got nothing in return. That would be a very strange decision, so I don’t think it would happen.”
The government has attempted to play down the reports that the UK would be paying a large divorce bill, with a spokesman telling the Financial Times: “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.”
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has previously told Parliament that the EU should “go whistle” over the “extortionate” divorce bill.
However, Prime Minister Theresa May and Brexit secretary David Davis have accepted that an amount will need to be paid, saying that they need “to determine a fair settlement of the UK’s rights and obligations.”
Conservative MP John Redwood said that it was ridiculous to say that the UK needs to pay the bill in order to move onto the next stage of negotiations.
Redwood told LBC: “Ministers would be quite wrong to be talking about any figures. We don’t owe them any money. It would be silly to be offering something when the EU is still not very willing to talk and is not coming up with anything constructive on its own side.”
David Jones, a former Brexit minister, told the Telegraph: “It looks very much as if officials are trying to bounce ministers into accepting an outcome of negotiations they will not be happy with. The whole thing is extremely unhelpful and against the national interest.”
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