Theresa May wins cautious backing from Cabinet to increase Brexit divorce bill offer

Posted On: 
20th November 2017

Theresa May has won the backing of her ministers to offer Brussels more cash to break the Brexit deadlock - but only if the EU agrees to finally begin trade talks.

Theresa May chaired a meeting of her Brexit sub-committee in Number 10.
PA Images

Members of a special Cabinet sub-committee on Brexit gave the Prime Minister their support at a two-hour meeting in Downing Street.

Mrs May proposed increasing her initial divorce bill offer of £18bn to around £35bn. The EU has said it is looking for around £50bn.

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However, leading Brexiters Boris Johnson and Michael Gove made it clear to the Prime Minister that the money should only offered if the EU gives the green light next month to trade negotiations.

Speaking afterwards, a Downing Street source said: "It remains our position that nothing’s agreed until everything’s agreed in negotiations with the EU. As the Prime Minister said this morning, the UK and the EU should step forward together."

Among the other senior ministers who took part in the Number 10 meeting were David Davis, Amber Rudd, Philip Hammond and Gavin Williamson.

The Prime Minister is risking a backlash from Tory MPs, who have said that the Government should not offer the EU more money.

Former minister Robert Halfon told the BBC: "Well we’ve just been talking about budget constraints, and the difficulty the Chancellor has in public spending, and if we start saying that we’re going to give 40 to 50 billion to the EU, I think the public will go bananas, absolutely spare."

Veteran Eurosceptic Peter Bone said: "One pound is too much. There is no legal obligation whatsoever for us to pay any money. We are net contributors, over £200bn over the years to the European Union superstate. If anyone should get any money from this divorce, it’s us. The idea we would pay £38bn is absurd."

Significantly, the meeting also agreed that the European Court of Justice should have a say in enforcing the rights of EU citizens living in Britain after Brexit.

That represents a major climbdown by Mrs May, who had previously insisted that the ECJ's oversight should end after the UK quits the EU.