UK admits it has a Brexit bill to pay

Blue Europe flag with man chipping off a yellow star
The UK hopes it can leave while retaining a 'deep and special partnership' with the EU

The UK government has finally admitted that it owes money to the EU before it may leave – expected to help ease the atmosphere as the first substantial round of Brexit talks takes place next week.

In a written statement, Brexit Minister Baroness Anelay said: “On the financial settlement… we will work with the EU to determine a fair settlement of the UK’s rights and obligations as a departing member state, in accordance with the law and in the spirit of our continuing partnership. The government recognises that the UK has obligations to the EU, and the EU obligations to the UK, that will survive the UK’s withdrawal and that these need to be resolved.”

Earlier this week UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had caused anger by remarking that the EU could “go whistle” for its “extortionate” Brexit bill, to which EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier retorted: “I can’t hear any whistling, just the clock ticking.”

The EU parliament’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt had also said on Wednesday: “At the moment we don’t even know if the UK even recognises there is a financial settlement to make. This uncertainty must disappear as fast as possible.” 

There has been speculation in the press as to the amount of the bill, but no precise sum has yet been named officially. However the many elements listed in the EU's position paper on the subject are expected to add up to tens of billions even taking into account money the EU may owe to the UK. 

Baroness Anelay also referred to the question of expat rights in her statement – an area which has been causing controversy ahead of the negotiations with accusations from MEPs and campaigners that the UK’s opening offer fails to match the level of protection offered by the EU’s.

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She said: “On citizens’ rights, the government’s priority remains providing certainty as soon as possible to EU citizens living in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU. To that end, we will use next week’s round to review the technical elements of the EU and UK proposals, identifying areas of alignment and those where further work is required by both parties.

The government has also now published three more ‘position papers’ ahead of the talks, related to its negotiating stance on different topics, which may also help oil the wheels after the UK was accused of failing to be as ‘transparent’ as the EU, which has now published a substantial number of papers on its Brexit page. 

One of the UK’s  new papers relates to the European Court of Justice, with the UK reaffirming the position that its jurisdiction in the UK will end with Brexit. However the paper concedes that there will remain cases before the court in which the UK was already a party while it was a member of the EU, which will have to be resolved.

Another paper concerns EURATOM. Leaving this nuclear partnership, which was first referred to in Prime Minister Theresa May’s article 50 letter triggering Brexit, is proving controversial, with question marks over whether or not it was necessary. However the paper confirms the UK intends to leave it, while at the same time aiming to ‘continue to cooperate on civil nuclear matters, harnessing shared experience and maximising shared interests, for example in nuclear research and development’.

The papers can be found in full on the government’s Brexit page here. 

Baroness Anelay said next week’s talks will “continue our journey towards a new, deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU.”

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