Anger in UK over reported $50 billion Brexit bill
Supporters and opponents of Brexit have reacted angrily to reports that the UK will pay up to 55 billion euros ($63 billion) to exit the European Union, putting pressure on British negotiators before key talks.
Brexit negotiators from London and Brussels agreed that Britain will pay between 45 and 55 billion euros, The Daily Telegraph reported Wednesday.
But the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier refused to confirm any reports, calling them “rumors.”
The so-called EU Divorce bill, or Brexit financial settlement, is the sum of money demanded by the EU from the UK as it leaves the bloc.
Brexit supporters reacted with anger to the reports, with prominent eurosceptic Nigel Farage calling the reported figure “utterly unacceptable.”
“For a sum of this magnitude to be agreed in return for nothing more than a promise of a decent settlement on trade represents a complete and total sellout,” he wrote in The Daily Telegraph.
Meanwhile, pro-EU Labour Party lawmaker Chuka Umunna said the UK government’s apparent retreat dispelled pro-Brexit campaign claims.
“This is a whopping great symbol for the impossibility on delivering Brexit on the terms it was sold to the British people,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.
Both sides have so far avoided publicly declaring a clear figure for what Britain owes the rest of the EU.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May had offered to cover Britain’s contributions to the EU budget in 2019 and 2020 – a total of around 20 billion euros. That pledge was reportedly doubled to 40 billion euros at a meeting in London last week.
There would be serious consequences if the EU and Britain fail to reach an agreement on Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc.
EU President Donald Tusk said Friday that a Brexit deal by December is a “huge challenge” and gave May 10 days to improve her offer if she wants EU leaders to allow Brexit talks to move to the next phase.
If May’s offer on critical withdrawal issues fails to make “significant progress,” EU leaders will refuse at their next summit on December 14 to unlock the next phase of the Brexit negotiations about a future trade deal and a transitional arrangement after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.