Brussels has insisted the UK taxpayer foots a bill of more than £5 billion for the pensions of 1,730 retired British European Union (EU) bureaucrats after it voted to leave the bloc.
Britain has long argued that the EU’s pensions are too generous. Around 10,000 EU officials are paid more that the British Prime Minister, and the typical EU official is entitled to a pension worth no more than 70 per cent of final basic salary.
Brussels has estimated its pensions liability at €60 billion (£50.7 billion), with annual payments currently at about €1.4 billion (£1.2 billion).
Although Britons make up almost 8 per cent of the 22,000 retired officials, the UK has responded by arguing the bill is technically the EU’s to pay.
Félix Geradon, deputy head of Union Syndicale-Bruxelles, the biggest EU trade union, told the Telegraph: “The UK is correct in its point that paying the pensions is the responsibility of the European budget. But the budget is a common responsibility of the member states.”
Basic gross monthly salaries for Commission staff currently range from about €2,600 for a secretary to about €18,000 for a head of department. A commissioner gets about €20,000 every month.
The impending showdown betweek the EU and UK could put many of the pensions at risk, and some senior EU officials have suggested a compromise involving the UK paying a lump sum to close its exposure and create a standalone pension fund.
Last week, it was reported that EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had had appointed a hard-line, anti-British federalist to lead the talks on Brexit.
It is feared that Frenchman Gaullist Michel Barnier will try to impose a punitive settlement on the UK to dissuade other nations from retaking their national sovereignty.
A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May has said Britain looked forward to working “with representatives from the member states, the Council and the Commission to ensure an orderly departure of the UK from the EU”.