The British government has indicated it will accept and pay all of the £53 billion ‘Brexit divorce bill’ demanded by the European Union (EU), say Brussels insiders.
Following the concession, the EU has reportedly finally begun to draw up plans for trade talks, which could begin before Chrismas and allow Prime Minister Theresa May to claim progress has been made, The Times reports.
The prime minister had already offered to pay €20 billion (£17.5 billion) during a two-year transition period.
The larger EU estimate of what the UK owes includes claimed budget commitments, the UK’s share of the cost of MEP pensions and aid budgets, and other liabilities.
This would bring the total to some €62 billion, but the final sum will not be finalised until the end of the talks.
“If they [the UK government] are smart, they will use this to claim victory and say trade talks have finally started,” said a senior EU negotiator, adding that “internal preparatory work” on the trade deal was already underway and would accelerate ahead of the December summit.
Brexit Secretary Says Talks Will ‘Probably Favour’ EU
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) November 1, 2017
A senior government source argued that the Brexit bill would be a small price to pay for a better trade deal.
“The value of getting a smoother process of transition and a smoother process of trade in the end game is worth quite a lot. These are sums that make any lubrication of the process look like small change,” they said.
The European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has been threatening since February to block trade talks unless all of the EU’s demanded £50 billion is paid and has previously said he will not budge “one iota” from his mandate.
The UK has made a number of other concessions to the EU in talks so far.
This weekend, sources claimed the UK will allow any EU nationals coming to Britain before Brexit day in 2019 to have their rights protected, probably allowing them to stay, despite initially wanting the cutoff to be when Article 50 was triggered in March.