- Downing Street said the actual sum did not yet exist
Downing Street has rejected suggestions that Britain will face a £50 billion “divorce” bill from the European Union – arguing that the figure has not yet been decided.
Theresa May’s official spokesperson said negotiations had not yet begun and that a figure on what the UK might pay as part of any settlement “does not actually exist”.
It was widely reported this week that Britain could face a hefty one-off bill for Brexit – a payment that could eat into the supposed budget savings promised by Leave campaigners.
European Commission chief negotiator Michel Barnier and other EU diplomats are reported to have mentioned the figure to EU leaders during a tour of EU capitals.
The ballpark number is understood to represent outstanding liabilities from the UK to the EU that will need to be cleared up after Britain leaves the bloc.
The sum is believed to include the obligation for the UK to pay into the EU Budget until the end of 2020, as well as pensions liabilities and payments linked to loan guarantees.
Separately, Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have also both acknowledged that the UK could make payments to Brussels for “access” to Europe’s markets.
“Negotiations have not begun and so that figure does not actually exist,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said at a briefing on Friday.
“As was set out last night by my colleagues in Brussels, that is one of a range of issues that will have to be dealt with. The outcome of those negotiations will be something for the future.”
Downing Street had previously only said that liabilities would be “one of the issues that will be for discussion” in Brexit talks.
Ms May cancelled her planned Brussels press conference late on Thursday night after talks with other EU leaders ran later than expected.