Brexit: EU officials told to expect ‘£17.7bn’ for divorce bill in Theresa May’s Florence speech

EU leaders are reportedly expecting Theresa May to offer €20 billion (£17.7bn) for the so-called Brexit divorce bill.

That figure would only cover short-term obligations until 2019, and has been described as a “transition payment”.

According to the Financial Times, former Brexit Permanent Secretary Olly Robbins has rung his EU counterparts to advise them that the Prime Minister will offer the sum, and it will be included in her widely anticipated speech this week in Florence.

Ms May reportedly hopes offering to plug this financial gap left by the UK will break the three-month pattern of stalled negotiations.

Sky News reported the figure was “pure speculation about a speech that has not yet been given”, according to Downing Street sources.

The number, reported by the FT, would plug a two-year gap until 2020, at which point no EU member state would have to pay more into the EU budget or receive less money from it, according to UK officials.

Mr Robbins resigned as Brexit Permanent Secretary this week, but Ms May said this was a positive move as the UK entered into a “more detailed and more intense” stage of negotiations.

All eyes are now on Ms May’s Florence speech, the first time she will speak in detail about her Brexit vision since her initial speech in January at Lancaster House. 

It comes after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson sparked leadership bid rumours by publishing a 10-point Brexit plan in The Telegraph

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Ms May responded that “Boris is Boris” and insisted the Government is “being driven from the front”. Mr Johnson previously called for EU ministers to “go whistle” if they expected payment from the UK.

The figure of the divorce bill comes as Brexit supporters still hope that £350m per week saved from the EU will go towards funding the NHS, a claim that has been recently restated by Mr Johnson.

The initial figure for the divorce bill may not be the only cost for exiting the EU.

Mujtaba Rahman, head of Europe for the Eurasia Group risk consultancy, told the FT: “The message from the EU is clear: covering budget holes is only a start; for a deal in October May also has to acknowledge that the UK will pay to settle past debts.”

The EU claims the UK has debts of up to €100bn, which could net out at a smaller sum if British receipts are stripped out.


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