Brexiteers slam rumoured £50bn divorce bill as a ‘bung’ and ‘betrayal of the British people’
Handing Brussels a multibillion pound Brexit 'divorce bill' would be a “betrayal of the British people”, anti-EU MPs have warned.
A number of leave-supporting backbenchers rounded on the Government following reports that UK and EU officials had agreed a sum of up to £50bn.
The agreement would clear a major hurdle ahead of next month's crucial European Council summit in Brussels, however ministers deny a figure has been reached and say talks are ongoing.
Speaking in the Commons during an urgent question today, vocal Tory backbencher Philip Davies said the UK should pay what it is legally obliged to and “not a penny more and not a penny less”.
“Will she make sure we have an itemised account of exactly what we are paying for at the end of it and also the legal basis upon which we are making those payments…” he asked Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss.
“If there’s any spare money going at a time of austerity, that should be directed to our priorities in the UK. We should not be giving a bung to the European Union that we’re not legally obliged to do."
His intervention followed that of Labour veteran Dennis Skinner, who said any “spare” billions should be invested in the health service and social care.
“70% of people in Bolsover voted to leave. Those same people would expect me to tell the Honourable Lady that from the finance department, if they’re got £60bn to spare it should go to the National Health Service and social care,” he said.
Arch-Brexiteer Tory MP Peter Bone echoed Mr Skinner’s comments, adding that his Wellingborough constituents would want such a vast sum spent on the NHS, social care and defence.
“They would not want it given to the European Union. Would the minister agree that such a move would be betraying the trust of the British people?” he added.
Elsewhere, former minister John Redwood praised the Government for continuing to plan for a 'no deal' scenario, so the country is not “up against the clock” come exit day.
The Wokingham MP added: "No deal has the great advantage of no payments whatsoever under the divorce bill heading, so when the Government recommends a deal it has to be visibly better.”
Ms Truss, speaking on behalf of the Government in the chamber, insisted the figures reported were not necessarily true, but added that it was in the UK’s interest to reach an amicable outcome.
“The money that we’ve been reading about in the press is speculation," she said.
"Discussions are ongoing and we want to secure value for money for the British taxpayer.
“It’s in our interests to secure a long-term economic partnership with the European Union, but we will not be paying over money until everything is agreed."
Labour MP Jonathan Reynolds said his party would try to ensure any financial settlement faces the scrutiny of MPs and economic experts.
“The Government must be transparent about the process, especially once an understanding has been reached with our EU partners,” he said.
“This is why we’ve tabled an amendment which calls for any financial settlement to be assessed by the [Office for Budget Responsibility], by the National Audit Office and for Parliament to have a chance to scrutinise it."
He added that ministers should back the amendment "in the interests of transparency and clarity".