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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Boris Johnson says UK WILL pay Brexit divorce bill just weeks after telling EU to 'go whistle'

3 min read

Boris Johnson has admitted Britain will have to pay a Brexit divorce bill - just weeks after saying the European Union would have to "go whistle" for the cash.

In a major climbdown, the Foreign Secretary said the British were "law-abiding, bill-paying people" and would settle what they owe before leaving the bloc.

His comments, on Radio Four's Today programme, were at odds with remarks he made in the House of Commons last month.

"The sums I have seen that they propose to demand from this country appear to be extortionate," he said. "Go whistle seems to me to be an entirely appropriate expression."

In response, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said: "I am not hearing any whistling, just the clock ticking."

But speaking this morning, Mr Johnson said: "I think I was being asked then about some very large sums of money, I think 100 billion euros or pounds that the EU Commission suggested we were on the hook for, and that’s not a figure I recognise.

"Some of the sums that I’ve seen seem to be very high and of course we will meet our obligations, you know, we are law-abiding, bill-paying people, the UK has contributed hundreds of billions over the years. We will certainly have to meet our obligations… I’m not saying that I accept Mr Barnier’s interpretation of what our obligations are, but I’m saying that we have to meet our legal obligations as we understand them.”

He added: “We should pay not a penny more, not a penny less of what we think our legal obligations amount to."

It has been reported that Britain is prepared to fork out £36bn in a series of instalments, but an agreement with Brussels on the final sum remains a long way off.


Meanwhile, Mr Johnson refused to back Theresa May over her insistence that foreign students be included in the net migration figures.

The Prime Minister was attacked yesterday after it emerged that the number of foreign students staying in the UK after their visas have expired is far smaller than she had previously claimed.

Asked whether they should be included in the immigration statistics, Mr Johnson would only say: "The Prime Minister rightly points out that that is the technical…that is the way they are currently counted."

Pressed on whether that should continue, he said: "That is the way it is done."


The Foreign Secretary also confirmed that the planned state visit by Donald Trump to the UK was "more likely 2018 than this year", and condemned the president over his response to the protest march by neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, last week.

"I thought he got it totally wrong and I thought it was a great shame that he failed to make a clear and fast distinction that we all are able to make between fascists and anti-fascists, between Nazis and anti-Nazis," he said.

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