LONDON: Downing Street has denied reports it is prepared to sign off on a £36 billion Brexit payment to the EU after Whitehall sources were quoted putting a figure on the UK’s “divorce bill” for the first time. Reports suggest the government is willing to make staged payments of up to €40 billion if the EU agreed to open talks on a post-Brexit trade deal. With three weeks until the next round of Brexit talks, discussion of the scale of the UK’s liabilities to the EU would open the door to a compromise on one of the key sticking points in negotiations of an October deadline. European sources have previously been quoted putting the size of those commitments much higher, at between €60 and €100 billion.
Ministers have rejected those figures, but conceded in July that the UK must meet its financial “obligations” to the EU. “We know their position is €60billion, but the actual bottom line is €50billion,” an unnamed senior Whitehall source told the Sunday Telegraph. Ours is closer to €30billion, but the landing zone is €40billion, even if the public and politicians are not all there yet.” Two other anonymous sources were quoted putting the sum at between €30-40 billion. The comments strike a very different tone to the one used by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson before the parliamentary recess, in which he told EU leaders they could “go whistle” if they wanted an “exorbitant” payment from the UK. But the figure was dismissed as “highly speculative and wrong” by a Downing Street official.