Britain is underestimating true dimension of EU divorce invoice, say MPs

LONDON (Reuters) – The British government’s estimate of how a lot it can have to pay the European Union as a part of its divorce settlement is at the least 10 billion kilos too low, a committee of MPs mentioned on Wednesday.

Anti-Brexit demonstrators waving EU and Union flags are mirrored in a puddle in entrance of the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Negotiators in London and Brussels have agreed on a divorce invoice of 35 to 39 billion kilos, resulting from be paid over the subsequent few a long time after Britain leaves the bloc.

The invoice was probably the most inflammatory components of Britain’s withdrawal negotiations, with vocal Brexit campaigners in Prime Minister Theresa May’s social gathering offended at having to pay something in any respect. The settlement was seen as an achievement for May as a result of it got here in decrease than some initially feared.

But parliament’s Public Accounts Committee mentioned the determine, which estimated the fee to the nation as an entire, was an underestimate of the particular value to public funds and mentioned the government wanted to be clearer.

“The true cost of Brexit is a matter of outstanding public interest. Government must provide parliament and the public with clear and unambiguous information,” committee chairwoman Meg Hillier mentioned.

“Government’s narrow estimate of the so-called divorce bill does not meet this description. It omits at least 10 billion of anticipated costs associated with EU withdrawal and remains subject to many uncertainties,” she added.

The report mentioned it didn’t embody three billion kilos of funds Britain would have to make to the European Development Fund, which the EU makes use of to offer abroad support.

The finance ministry mentioned May had been clear that Britain would honour commitments to the EU which had been made whereas it was nonetheless a member of the bloc.

“We have negotiated a settlement that is fair to UK taxpayers and ensures we will not pay for any additional EU spending beyond what we signed up to as a member,” a Treasury spokesman mentioned.

The committee additionally mentioned the estimated general settlement included round 7.2 billion kilos of EU funding which can go straight to non-public sector our bodies and would subsequently not offset the fee to government.

The unique finance ministry estimate of the general value to the nation didn’t distinguish between flows to non-public and public sector our bodies, and easily deducted a mixed quantity from the fee.

The Treasury mentioned: “The National Audit Office confirmed in April that our estimated figure is a reasonable calculation. Now we are discussing what our future relationship looks like.”

Reporting by William James; modifying by Stephen Addison

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