As Jean-Claude Juncker re-emphasises that Britain faces a "hefty" Brexit bill, should we pay it?

BELGIUM-EU-BRITAIN-POLITICS-SUMMIT
The EU is angling for Britain to pay an estimated €60bn (Source: Getty)

Jonathan Portes, professor of economics and public policy at King’s College London, says Yes.

Why is this even a question? The bulk of the “bill” relates to accrued pension liabilities of EU civil servants – pensions they earned while working for us. We – the UK public, via our democratically elected government – hired them, paid them and told them what to do. Of course we have to pay our share of their pensions.

We can and should argue about the details – the EU has assets as well as liabilities, and we should press for our fair share of those too. But walking away from obligations for which we have a clear legal, political and moral responsibility would be self-destructive.

Let’s put this in perspective: €60bn sounds like a lot; but it’s a lump sum, not an addition to the annual deficit. The Office for National Statistics added more than that to our national debt in 2015 by a minor technical change – and nobody bar public finance nerds like me really noticed.

The upcoming negotiations with the EU really matter – there are far more important issues at stake.

Jonathan Isaby, editor of BrexitCentral, says No.

It is hardly surprising that European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and others in the European Union are making outlandish demands for huge dollops of British taxpayers’ cash ahead of the impending Brexit negotiations. The fact that the UK is the second biggest net contributor to Brussels’ coffers is one reason why they are lamenting our departure (and indeed why so many Brits voted to leave in the first place).

In that sense, you can hardly blame them for trying it on. But the first rule of any successful negotiation, whether you are bartering at a market stall or doing a high-level international deal, must be to politely decline the other side’s unrealistic and inflated opening gambit.

And while there are undeniably some liabilities for which we are partially financially responsible, there is also a pretty hefty clutch of assets to which we can lay claim – and not just the EU’s notoriously large wine cellar.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

Related articles