London: Britain is prepared to pay up to €40 billion ($59 billion) as part of a deal to leave the European Union, according to reports.
Senior government officials have concluded that such an offer – the first time a precise figure has been proposed – is the only way to break the deadlock in Brexit negotiations.
However, the UK will only agree to pay the £36 billions if the EU negotiates the financial settlement as part of a deal on future relations, including a trade deal.
The deal was first reported by London’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper, citing three unnamed sources familiar with Britain’s negotiating strategy.
The European Union has floated a higher figure of €60 billion and wants significant progress on settling Britain’s liabilities before talks can start on complex issues such as future trading arrangements.
The government department responsible for Brexit talks declined to comment on the revelations. So far, Britain has given no official indication of how much it would be willing to pay.
The newspaper said British officials were likely to offer to pay €10 billion a year for three years after leaving in March 2019, then finalise the total alongside detailed trade talks.
“We know [the EU’s] position is €60 billion, but the actual bottom line is €50 billion. Ours is closer to €30 billion but the actual landing zone is €40 billion, even if the public and politicians are not all there yet,” the newspaper quoted one “senior Whitehall source” as saying. Whitehall is the London district where British civil servants and ministers are based.
A second Whitehall source said Britain’s bottom line was “€30 billion to €40 billion” and a third source said Prime Minister Theresa May was willing to pay “north of €30 billion”, the newspaper said.
David Davis, the British minister in charge of Brexit talks, said on July 20 that Britain would honour its obligations to the EU but declined to confirm that Brexit would require net payments.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a leading Brexit advocate, said last month the EU could “go whistle” if it made “extortionate” demands for payment.
Mrs May is now expected to give a speech next month clarifying the UK’s vision for the future, but any large payment to the EU will prove controversial. In March a cross-party committee of peers said that Britain was not under any legal obligation to pay anything to leave the EU.
Last week the Bank of England said Brexit uncertainty was weighing on the economy. Finance Minister Philip Hammond wants to avoid unsettling businesses further.
If Britain cannot conclude an exit deal, trade relations would be governed by World Trade Organisation rules, which would allow both parties to impose tariffs and customs checks and leave many other issues unsettled.
The EU has also wants agreement by October on rights of EU citizens already in Britain, and on border controls between the Irish Republic and the British province of Northern Ireland, before trade and other issues are discussed.