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Britain ‘does not recognise’ €47.5bn Brexit bill – PM’s spokesperson

Britain has said it does not recognise the European Union’s estimate of the overall Brexit settlement cost, and that the total bill remained within the government’s original projections.

The EU said on Thursday that Britain is liable to pay €47.5billion to the EU as part of its post-Brexit financial settlement.

The figure, contained in the EU’s budget accounts for 2020, was first reported by RTÉ News yesterday. It covers the UK’s liabilities for spending commitments made by the EU up until the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.

“We don’t recognise that figure,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman told reporters.

“It’s an estimate produced by the EU for its own internal accounting purposes. For example, it doesn’t reflect all the money owed back to the UK, which reduces the amount we pay.”

Earlier, UK treasury officials said the figure should be lower.

When the negotiations governing Britain’s divorce from the EU began in June 2017, the EU insisted three issues would have to be settled first.

They were the Irish border, citizens’ rights and the financial settlement, in other words, what Britain owed the EU on account of its past membership obligations.

The idea of a divorce bill running into tens of billions of euro enraged eurosceptics. The then foreign secretary Boris Johnson said the EU could “go whistle” if it expected the UK to pay up.

Other Brexiteers said the UK should only pay the bill if it was granted a free trade agreement.

Despite this, UK officials predicted the bill would be between £35-£39 billion. According to the EU’s consolidated budget accounts for 2020 the bill is €47.5 billion, nearly £41 billion

The money is due for spending commitments and contracts the EU entered into right up until 31 December. Some €14.3 billion will go to paying salaries and pensions for EU officials, MEPs and Commissioners.

Treasury officials have told the Financial Times that these figures are estimates and are subject to change.

Ireland’s member on the European Court of Auditors Tony Murphy has said that while the sums are provisional, the Court’s audit is complete and is not expected to change.

By Tony Connelly
Europe Editor
Updated / Friday, 9 Jul 2021 19:45