With fresh estimates putting the UK’s Brexit bill at an enormous €100bn, should Britain pay it?

Heads Of State Attend The European Council Meeting
Juncker wants to fill the EU's post-Brexit financial black hole (Source: Getty)

Richard Corbett, Labour MEP for Yorkshire and The Humber, says Yes.

We should only pay what is due – but we have indeed signed up to jointly spend money on quite a few common projects and policies over the next few years. Britain therefore has a share of EU financial liabilities and obligations (and, conversely, some assets).

The exact figure is yet to be worked out, and both Michel Barnier and Guy Verhofstadt have been very careful not to mention a specific number. However they were clear that this is not a punishment or an exit charge, rather it is a closure of the accounts.

Theresa May herself has said that the UK is a country that will fulfil its obligations – and has accepted that a significant payment will be due.

The big problem is that many Leave supporters pretended that there can be a Brexit-at-no-cost. When challenged, they shout “scaremongering” or “Project Fear”. With their lies now being exposed, they are seeking to demonise the EU, which is not a wise tactic at the beginning of such delicate and complex negotiations upon which our economic future depends.

Julian Jessop, chief economist at the Institute of Economic Affairs, says No.

The UK government should take a hard line. There may be a moral case for contributing to the pensions of some EU officials and a few investment projects already underway. And yes, it may also be wise to offer something extra now to smooth future negotiations.

But it is debatable whether the UK is under any legal obligation to pay a penny.

Any bill certainly needs to be properly justified. The EU hasn’t actually specified how much it wants, or even a basis for the calculation. Officials originally floated a range of €20-40bn, then €40-60bn. More recently some new principles have been suggested which might take the gross bill to €100bn.

But this figure is based on increasingly outrageous claims – such as forcing the UK to pay all contingent liabilities up front – and does not allow for monies that would be due back to us.

Some tough haggling lies ahead. However, the United Kingdom’s net bill should be much nearer to zero than €100bn.

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.

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