UK could face 60bn euro Brexit bill, former diplomat Sir Ivan Rogers warns

Posted On: 
1st February 2017

The European Union is prepared to present the British government with a Brexit bill as large as 60bn euros, the UK’s former top diplomat in Brussels said today.

Sir Ivan Rogers answering questions from MPs this morning
Credit: 
Parliament TV

Sir Ivan Rogers warned of a “humongous” trade negotiation and the possibility of “very, very severe complications” if the Government does not get it right.

But it is his comments about the potential cost of leaving the EU which are most likely to rile eurosceptics.

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At the same time he made clear that the 40-60bn euro figure could simply be an “opening bid” from the European Commission.

“The total financial liability as they see it might be of the order of 40-60bn euros on exit, I think they do believe that,” Sir Ivan told MPs on the European Scrutiny Committee.

“I think that’s a predictably very hard line coming from the Commission and some in the European Parliament and from some member states.

“We will see whether when the member states get together they sustain that position, go as hard-line as that, plonk that number on the table and then see whether that’s a genuine pitch or just an opening bid.”

‘MORE THAN HAPPY’ WITH BREXIT

Sir Ivan resigned as the permanent representative to UkRep, the body which represents the UK in negotiations in the EU, at the beginning of January, with his resignation email to colleagues criticising “ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking” about the Brexit process.

That led to criticism from pro-Leave politicians, with former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith claiming he could “not be trusted” to represent the UK.

But he firmly rejected the idea he was an anti-Brexit creature of the Commission, telling the committee: 

“I’m an avid free-trader, I’m a free trade and sound money Treasury man by origin, so a free-trading globalising Britain outside the EU with a free-trading relationship with the EU and with multiple other players is something I’m more than reconciled to and more than happy with.”

A ‘HUMONGOUS’ NEGOTIATION

While many  Brexiteers favour a short, sharp trade deal, Sir Ivan warned the negotiations would be “humongous” and “the most complex free trade agreement ever negotiated by two negotiating partners”.

The negotiation will be complicated not only in terms of UK-EU negotiations, but within the 27 other EU member states themselves, he added.

He said there were already intensive discussions going on among governments about what the agreed position of the bloc would be ahead of the negotiation.

In addition, it is far from clear that some in Brussels want the Article 50 talks to include discussions about a free trade agreement.

FIVE AREAS FOR NEGOTIATION

Sir Ivan said the view among the other 27 states was that the “next negotiation” would centre on five areas.

- Disentanglement of the UK from the EU budget and financial liabilities.

- The rights of EU citizens already here and UK citizens living in the EU.

- Where agencies currently headquartered here, such as the European Banking Agency, are located.

- What happens to international treaties signed by EU member states including the UK.

- Transitional arrangements before a trade deal.