Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May addresses a news conference during a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium - REUTERS/Francois Lenoi Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May addresses a news conference during a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium - REUTERS/Francois Lenoi

UK ministers agree in principle to higher Brexit bill: sources

By: AFP
Tue, Nov. 21, 2017
London - 21 Nov 2017: Senior British ministers have agreed to offer more money to Brussels as part of Brexit negotiations, but only as part of a final deal on leaving the EU, sources said Tuesday.

Leading Brexit campaigners, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, have agreed to increase Britain's offer of a financial settlement in a bid to move the withdrawal negotiations onto trade, newspaper reports said.

A government source confirmed to AFP that ministers at a cabinet sub-committee meeting late Monday had agreed to offer more money on the basis that it was part of a final deal, but said "no numbers" were discussed.

A Downing Street source said: "It remains our position that nothing's agreed until everything's agreed in negotiations with the EU. The UK and the EU should step forward together."

An unnamed source told the Daily Telegraph newspaper: "Any offer would be determinant on the overall progress of the negotiations, so it's not a case of 'take that money and bank on it'."

Prime Minister Theresa May promised during her speech in Florence in September that no European Union member state would have to pay more because of Britain's exit.

This would suggest Britain will continue its payments under the current budget cycle, for around two years after Brexit in March 2019 -- about 20 billion euros ($23.5 billion).

British media reports have suggested the government could double this to 40 billion euros -- although that figure would still fall short of EU estimates which put the divorce bill at around 60 billion euros.

Britain wants EU leaders meeting at a summit in December to agree that "sufficient progress" has been made on the divorce bill, the issue of Ireland and EU citizens' rights, so that talks can move onto a future UK-EU trade deal.

May has to tread carefully, as there is strong opposition from her backbench Conservative MPs to paying a large sum to leave the EU, even if Brussels says it is simply Britain's share of four decades of EU membership.

Former Conservative minister Robert Halfon said at the weekend that the public would go "bananas" if Britain committed huge sums at a time of tightened public spending.

"If we start saying that we're going to give £40 to £50 billion (45 to 56 billion euros) to the EU, I think the public will go bananas, absolutely spare," he told BBC radio.
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