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UK 'facing £18bn divorce bill for Brexit'

Published 12/10/2016

MPs are set to push for a vote on Brexit strategy
MPs are set to push for a vote on Brexit strategy

Britain is facing a "divorce bill" of up to 20 billion euro (£18 billion) as the cost of leaving the European Union, it has been reported.

The Financial Times has calculated that more than 300 billion euros (£270 billion) of shared payment liabilities will have to be settled in Brexit negotiations.

The 20 billion euro "upper estimate" was said to cover the UK's share of continuing multi-year liabilities including 241 billion euros (£217 billion) of unpaid budget appropriations, pension liabilities of 63.8 billion euros (£57.5 billion), and other commitments totalling around 32 billion euros (£29 billion).

The Government refused to be drawn on the report. A spokesman said: "As the Prime Minister has said, we will invoke Article 50 no later than the end of March next year. We are not going to provide a running commentary on leaving the EU."

The disclosure follows a tumultuous day for the pound on the foreign exchanges which at one point saw sterling lose almost 1% of its value against the dollar during the course of exchanges in the Commons before staging a rally.

It came as Theresa May refused to commit to giving MPs a vote on her Brexit strategy despite growing Tory calls for more clarity on the plan before the formal process of leaving the EU is triggered.

During an at times heated debate called by Labour, a series of Conservative MPs lined up to insist that greater transparency was essential to protect British jobs, businesses and investment.

Former minister Claire Perry said she was "extremely concerned" about the pound's overall poor performance over the past week while Chris Philp asked for as much clarity as possible over likely future trading arrangements.

Tory former attorney general Dominic Grieve renewed his call for the Commons to be given a vote on the Brexit plan before Article 50 is invoked, an idea which has the support of pro-Leave Tory MP Stephen Phillips.

Asked at Prime Minister's Questions if her concession to Tory MPs would mean a Commons vote before invoking Article 50, Mrs May insisted suggestions Parliament would be unable to debate issues around Brexit were "completely wrong".

"The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (David Davis) has already made two statements in this House, I believe four hours of questions followed from those," she said.

"A new select committee has been set up which crucially includes representatives from all parts of the United Kingdom, which will be looking at these issues.

"And only just over a week ago, I announced there would be a Great Repeal Bill in the next session of Parliament to repeal the European Communities Act. So Parliament's going to have every opportunity to debate this issue."

However she came under pressure from Jeremy Corbyn, who said the Prime Minister was pursuing a "shambolic Tory Brexit" to appease her backbenchers as Labour posed the Government 170 questions on Brexit - one for every day until Mrs May's deadline for triggering Article 50.

The Labour leader said the Government offers "no strategy for negotiating Brexit and offers no clarity, no transparency and no chance of scrutiny of the process for developing a strategy".

Meanwhile, the Open Britain campaign highlighted 2008 comments in which Mrs May backed parliamentary votes to define Britain's negotiating position in the EU.

"We should have a statutory scrutiny reserve so that ministers would have to gain parliamentary approval before negotiations in the Council of Ministers," she told the Commons on February 7 2008.

"The system would also need to be backed by clear sanctions so that if the minister broke the reserve - if he or she came to an agreement with the committee and went on to negotiate a different position - there could be some kind of formal censure."

Commenting for Open Britain, Labour MP Phil Wilson said: "The Government's negotiating hand would be strengthened if they had clear plans backed by a strong parliamentary mandate.

"This is something the Prime Minister used to support. I hope ministers will now listen to MPs on all sides and give Parliament a vote on the terms of their Brexit negotiations."

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