Boris Johnson: Theresa May should refuse to pay EU exit bill

Posted On: 
10th March 2017

Theresa May should refuse to pay the multi-billion pound bill Britain is likely to be presented with when it quits the EU, Boris Johnson has said.

Boris Johnson said demands for an exit fee "were not reasonable"
Credit: 
PA Images

Experts have said the charge for commitments the UK entered into while still a member of the bloc could be as high as £60bn.

But the Foreign Secretary said the Prime Minister should follow the lead of Margaret Thatcher and stand firm against Brussels leaders.

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Mr Johnson, who was a key figurehead in the Leave campaign, said the issue was reminiscent of the former Prime Minister’s battle to secure a rebate for the UK from the EU’s budget in 1984, where she threatened to hold back British payments.

Speaking on the BBC programme ‘Brexit: Britain's Biggest Deal’, he said: "I think we have illustrious precedent in this matter, and you will doubtless recall the 1984 Fontainebleau Summit in which Mrs Thatcher said she wanted her money back, and I think that is exactly what we will get."

"It is not reasonable, I don't think, for the UK having left the EU to continue to make vast budget payments, I think everybody understands that and that's the reality."

In a blow for Mrs May, Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny refused to rule out the possibility of Britain being landed with the huge bill.

Speaking to reporters as he arrived at an EU summit in Brussels, he said: “When you sign on for a contract you commit yourself to participation and obviously the extent of that level of money will be determined.”

European Commission head, Jean-Claude Juncker, has previously warned that Britain must pay a “hefty” bill when it quits the EU, and rallied remaining members to prepare for a “tough negotiation”.

In December, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said a divorce settlement amounting to “tens of billions” will be expected from the UK every year until 2020 to pay off its existing spending commitments.

‘AGREEING THE BILLS’

Tomas Prouza, Czech Republic’s Europe minister, added that the cash is simply “agreeing the bills that the UK has already agreed to pay”.

He told Sky News: “I understand why the eurosceptics call it an exit fee...

“We’re talking about payments to the existing budget that the UK already voted for, pensions of British citizens working at the EU. This is only things the UK has already committed itself to paying.”

A number of Tory MPs have previously voiced their opposition to the idea that the UK’s negotiating team will “beg for mercy”.

Iain Duncan Smith said: “It is utter, total rubbish from Mr Barnier... There are real questions about what we owe, it’s probably peanuts. He is deploying the tactics of project fear. People won’t believe it.”

Fellow Conservative backbencher Steve Baker said the Frenchman had been “aloof” and “petulant”.