The UK’s Brexit negotiators claim they have had “lots of legal advice” suggesting that the €60 billion Brexit bill should not be paid to Brussels, EURACTIV.com has learned.
The bill the UK will have to settle after it leaves the bloc on 29 March 2019 is one of the most contentious issues in the ongoing divorce talks between Britain and the EU.
EU officials have already made clear that Britain would have to honour all its financial commitments under the EU’s long-term budget, which covers the 2014-2020 period, even after leaving the Union.
The UK is currently the second largest net contributor to the EU budget, after Germany.
Officials have previously said the bill could be as much as €60 billion, sparking howls of outrage in London, which puts the figure closer to €20 billion.
The European Commission claims that no official numbers have been decided yet, with some estimates even putting the Brexit tab closer to €100 billion.
“The UK legal advisers say they have lots of advice suggesting the country does not need to pay the €60 billion to the EU,” a source told EURACTIV on condition of anonymity. UK advisers are reportedly very keen to know the legal basis of the EU’s demand.
“We are trying to tell [the UK government] not to politicise the discussion as this is a legal case and an obligation and not a Brexit fine as some tend to present it,” the same source added.
“UK premier Theresa May should not be affected by those fueling the rhetoric ‘they ask us for a bill even if we are leaving’,” the source warned.
Working on the methodology
Another EU source told EURACTIV that Brussels is currently working with the UK government on the methodology to quantify the exact numbers but no official figures on the financial settlement have been decided yet.
“Legal commitments of the past should be honoured,” the EU source commented.
The same source stressed that the ultimate numbers would also depend on the spending over the next two years and that it is impossible to propose the figures now.
The UK will remain a full EU member until April 2019, when the two-year period started by Article 50 expires. According to the EU, London’s budget contributions are expected to be fully respected until then.