EU wants UK to pay Brexit bill of billions for years
The European Commission wants Britain to be paying into EU projects for four years after it has signed a Brexit deal, with final payments continuing up until the end of 2023.
The plan is part of a European Union demand that Britain settles a €60bn "Brexit bill" before being granted a deal that will govern future trade relations.
The demand emerged after Theresa May appeared at the House of Lords in person as peers began a two-day debate on the Government's Article 50 Bill.
The suggestion that Britain should pay instalments until 2023 was made at a meeting earlier this month between Michel Barnier, the European Commission's chief Brexit negotiator, and senior officials from the 27 remaining EU member states.
The payments would be to help smooth over the €10bn-a-year black hole left in the EU budgets by Britain's departure from the EU, which could see richer countries like Germany and France paying more, or poorer countries, like Poland and Hungary receiving less.
"The Commission wants the UK to pay in instalments from the day of departure in 2019 up until 2023, which is when the financial demands of the EU's seven-year budget cycle are at their highest," said an EU diplomatic source with knowledge of the meeting.
Mrs May promised that Britain would stop making "vast contributions" to the annual EU budget after Brexit, but the EU will demand that Britain keeps making payments to honour commitments already made in the 2014-2020 budget round.
The payments will reflect the reality that EU projects Britain agreed to support prior to departure in 2019 will not require funds to be actually disbursed until up to four years later. The prospect of paying into Europe for so long presents a political headache for Mrs May and has raised fears among major EU countries, led by France and Germany, that Britain will not honour its side of the bargain if relations subsequently sour.
The meeting between Mr Barnier and the EU member states also revealed a deep split between France and Germany and the European Commission over how to calculate what Britain owes prior to departure in March 2019. The EC believes Britain should be allowed to offset its share of the EU's €154bn assets against what it owes in annual budget commitments, pension obligations and other longer term liabilities.