Britain is willing to offer a £36 billion ‘divorce bill’ payment to the EU to break the deadlock in negotiations, but only in return for the union agreeing to finalise a deal on the exact nature of the post-split deal for the UK, including the status of trade deals.
The Sunday Telegraph reports that “separate sources in Whitehall and government with knowledge of the UK’s negotiating strategy confirmed the figure, dismissing previous reports that Theresa May would agree to a £50bn bill as ‘too high’.”
The move comes after a series of second-round talks in July ended with British negotiators believing that the EU had deliberately set the bar impossibly high, demanding that any discussion about trade deals could only come after issues such as citizens’ rights and Northern Ireland’s future border status with the Republic were resolved.
British government sources told the newspaper that they believed the EU’s opening position on a settlement deal would be €60bn – considerably less than the €100bn which some had thought would be asked for.
The proposed deal would see Britain continuing to make annual net payments to the union of €10bn for the three years following Brexit in 2019.
“The 27 say they can’t knock off the bits of their ‘bill’ until the very end - but politically we can’t move on money until the 27 member states start to show compromise. As a negotiation process, it just doesn’t work,” a senior Whitehall source told the newspaper.
“We know their position is €60bn, but actual bottom line is €50. Ours is closer to €30bn, but the landing zone is €40bn, even if the public and politicians are not all there yet,” the senior Whitehall source added.
The offer is not without political complications for prime minister Theresa May, as Brexiteers within her own party are unlikely to acquiesce to such a large payment – many are demanding that the UK owes nothing to the EU after Brexit is concluded.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson recently told MPs that European leaders could “go whistle” if they thought that the UK would cough up a large sum.