Britain and the EU 'agree Brexit divorce bill of up to £50 billion'
Britain and the European Union have finally agreed a Brexit divorce bill of up to £50bn, it has been reported.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the deal was reached last week following "intense back-channel discussions" involving chief UK negotiator Oliver Robbins.
The agreement clears one major hurdle ahead of next month's crucial EU Council summit in Brussels, when it will be decided whether sufficient progress has been made to allow the talks to move onto trade and Britain's future relationship with the bloc.
It is also an important breakthrough in advance of Theresa May meeting European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker next week.
However, agreement has yet to be reached on the future role of the European Court of Justice in overseeing the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and the future of the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
One senior source told the Telegraph: "The deal on the money is there; it’s now the ECJ question and Northern Ireland that are the outstanding issues ahead of the Council."
Theresa May won the backing of her Cabinet to increase the UK's offer from £20bn to £40bn last week - so long as the EU agreed to move onto trade talks.
However, she is likely to face a backlash from Brexiteers if the final bill approaches £50bn.
According to the Telegraph, the ultimate figure could be as low as £40bn, depending on how the final calculations are carried out.
A source at the Department for Exiting the European Union said they "did not recognise" the figures and insisted that an agreement had not yet been reached.
A spokesman for the department said: "We are exploring how we can continue to build on recent momentum in the talks so that together we can move the negotiations on to the next phase and discuss our future partnership."
James McGrory, executive director of the pro-EU organisation Open Britain, said: "Boris Johnson’s bus somehow neglected to mention that a Brexit bung of £50 billion would be the price that was paid to leave the EU. This is money that could be far better spent on our National Health Service.
"This may be the price that needs to be paid to move the Brexit talks on, but it is a bitter pill to swallow for our country as our NHS faces a winter crisis.
"People voted for more money for our NHS and our public services, not less. People voted for a stronger economy, not a weaker one. As new facts continue to come to light – and the colossal cost of Brexit becomes clearer – voters have every right to keep an open mind about whether leaving the EU is really the best future for our country."