The EU will hand the UK a €60bn “exit bill” when Theresa May triggers Article 50, the EU’s chief negotiator has warned.
Michel Barnier told colleagues a divorce settlement amounting to “tens of billions” will be expected from the UK every year until 2020 to pay off its existing spending commitments.
The bill will include outstanding pensions liabilities, loan guarantees and spending on UK-based projects.
It chimes with Financial Times analysis that more than €300bn of payment liabilities will need to be settled before Britain quits the bloc.
And it echoes the warning from German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who said the UK could be paying off a bill of €40-60bn for the next decade.
According to Tomas Prouza, the Czech Republic’s Europe minister, the cash is simply “agreeing the bills that the UK has already agreed to pay”.
He told Sky News: “I understand why the eurosceptics call it an exit fee…
“We’re talking about payments to the existing budget that the UK already voted for, pensions of British citizens working at the EU. This is only things the UK has already committed itself to paying.”
Asked whether British taxpayers should expect a bill amounting to tens of billions, he said:
“Definitely. This is what the UK has already committed to pay, and we would expect that the UK would honour its commitments… it will be one of the first issues coming up on the table.”
But Eurosceptic MP Iain Duncan Smith said:
“It’s playing to the gallery to try and persuade Britain to beg for mercy. We will not.”
The former UK Government minister added: “This is based on their [the EU’s] fevered imagination, not reality. The Remainers will use this to try to stop Brexit; it’s Project Fear all over again.
“It is utter, total rubbish from Mr Barnier… There are real questions about what we owe, it’s probably peanuts. He is deploying the tactics of project fear. People won’t believe it.”
Downing Street said any divorce settlement with the EU would be a matter for negotiation.