A fresh Brexit dispute has emerged over the size of the UK’s “divorce bill” after the European Union estimated it is now billions more than expected.
Downing Street on Friday rejected the new net figure that emerged in Brussels’ latest accounts of 47.5 billion euros (£40.8 billion). No. 10 insisted the figure Britain owes remains within the range of its previous estimates of between £35 billion and £39 billion.
The bill, buried in the EU’s accounts for 2020, states that 6.8 billion euros (£5.8 billion) is to be paid by the UK this year.
Downing Street said it does not accept the revised sum and pledged to issue more details to Parliament in the coming weeks.
“We don’t recognise that figure, it’s an estimate produced by the EU for its own internal accounting purposes,” a No. 10 spokesman said.
“For example, it doesn’t reflect all the money owed back to the UK, which reduces the amount we pay.
“Our estimate remains in the central range of between £35 and £39 billion and we will publish full details in Parliament shortly.” The so-called divorce bill covers spending commitments made during the 47 years of the UK’s membership of the bloc.
A methodology for calculating the sum was agreed during negotiations for the Withdrawal Agreement that paved the way for the UK’s departure, but an exact figure was not agreed upon.
The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) estimated it to be £37.1 billion in 2018.
In Brussels, a European Commission spokesman said the new figure is “correct.”
“The report is final and the calculations were made in line with the withdrawal agreement,” he said.
“We have already informed the UK Government about the payments that they have to do with regard to the first part of this year and they’ve already in fact paid part of the amount concerned.
“Therefore, we have absolutely no indications at this point in time that the bill, or the amount that we’ve calculated will be contested.”
By Sam Blewett