Final Brexit divorce bill figure 'may be kept secret'

Posted On: 
26th November 2017

The size of the UK's financial settlement with the EU may never be made public, Brussels sources have suggested.

Theresa May meeting the head of the European Council, Donald Tusk, at Downing St

In comments likely to provoke outrage from Tory eurosceptics, EU insiders have suggested the final figure may not even be written into the withdrawal agreement, according to the Sunday Times.

Along with citizens' rights and the Irish border, the size of the so-called 'divorce bill' is one of the sticking points holding up the negotiations from progressing on to trade talks.

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Recent reports suggest Theresa May is prepared to offer over £40bn to cover the UK's existing commitments in a bit to move the negotiations on.

But it appears the final figure could remain secret, even by the time the withdrawal agreement is signed.

“The Brits will list categories in which they want to honour their commitments. They will present different calculations than the Commission, but for us it’s all about accepting the principle — not about having a specific figure," a senior EU source told the paper.

“The withdrawal agreement will not contain a figure — the Brits only need to indicate what, and how. Not how much."

They added: “It will all be about the presentation in order to help May and her cabinet deal with the political sensitivities. But the stars are aligned for a successful deal...

“We are in the business of securing an agreement. We need to improve the atmosphere in order to move on to the real difficult bit — the trade deal.”

While the two sides may be nearing agreement on the financial issue, they are still at a impasse over Ireland.

The Irish government has said it wants clear commitments there will not be a hard border with Northern Ireland.

But the eurosceptic DUP - whose MPs are propping up Mrs May's government - has made equally clear it will not accept any attempt to keep the province in the EU's customs unions.