Theresa May was reported to be willing to pay up to €40bn (£36bn) as the price for getting on with trade talks and an exit deal. But Downing Street has dismissed the idea of paying that amount , as leading supporters of leaving the EU said they would not accept handing over such a large sum.
The sum would be a compromise, because Brussels has demanded about €60bn. The €40bn figure would still be the equivalent of several years of contributions to the EU budget, which would continue to be paid after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.
A Downing Street source, however, said the figure, which was mentioned by Brussels sources quoted in the Sunday Telegraph, was “inaccurate speculation”, playing down the idea that such a high bill would be acceptable to the government or Brexit voters.
The issue of payments to the EU is a huge political problem for No 10, partly because the Brexit campaign mentioned recouping £350m a week from Brussels to put towards the NHS.
At the same time, the EU will not progress to the next stage of talks on the future relationship until it deems that “sufficient progress” has been made on the financial settlement.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, told diplomats last month that the next step may be pushed back to December because Britain is stalling on the bill.
May and David Davis, the Brexit secretary, have accepted that an amount will have to be paid, saying they need “to determine a fair settlement of the UK’s rights and obligations”.
But some Brexit supporters take a much harder line against payments to the EU. Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, told the House of Commons last month that Brussels could “go whistle”.Others dismissed the idea of handing over payments to the EU after leaving.
> Juthy Saha