It could cost the UK £50bn to extricate itself from the EU if the European Commission’s chief negotiator has his way.
Michel Barnier has indicated to multiple parties in the negotiation that the UK will have to pay between €50bn and €60bn (£50bn) in money still owed from earlier commitments, according to reports by Sky News.
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan – one of the leading campaigners for Brexit – dismissed Barnier’s reported position as posturing.
“I get the idea of putting in a high opening bid, but there’s a difference between playing hardball and playing the fool,” he said.
“Why should the UK have obligations unless it chooses to opt in to some existing EU programmes,” he added.
British ministers – including secretary of state for the Brexit department David Davis and chancellor Philip Hammond – have refused to rule out continuing contributions to the EU budget as part of an exchange.
Barnier was confirmed as the Commission’s negotiator on Thursday evening by leaders of the European Union at a short informal meeting after a summit. Prime Minister Theresa May left the summit before the discussions on Brexit began.
After the summit European Council president Donald Tusk reiterated the “indivisibility of the four freedoms, the balance of rights and obligations, and the rule ‘no negotiations without notification’,” sticking to the hard line that European diplomats have taken in public ahead of the UK government’s planned triggering of Article 50 in March 2017.
The UK is legally obliged to contribute to the EU budget under the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).
The EU’s MFF commits the UK to spending up until 2020. The MFF was made legally binding in 2009 under the Treaty of Lisbon, with its latest version covering the period from 2014 until 2020.