Following growing expectations of an imminent breakthrough in the Brexit negotiations, the Prime Minister rejected suggestions that the Government was poised to pay an exit fee of up to £50billion.
She said she was “still in negotiations” with Brussels and insisted: “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
Mrs May spoke out after Tory MPs raised concerns that the Government was caving in to Brussels demands.
In the Commons yesterday, one backbencher warned that the Government was “dancing to the tune” of the European Commission while another feared a multi-billion divorce fee would be “betraying” voters who backed leaving the EU in last year’s referendum.
Mrs May used a round of broadcast interviews during a surprise visit to Iraq yesterday to reject suggestions that a deal with Brussels had been concluded.
May won’t pay! PM will NOT stump up Brexit Bill until FULL details of EU divorce agreed
We are leaving a club and once you leave a club you no longer have to pay subscriptions
“No, we are still in negotiations with the European Union; as the EU themselves have said, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” said the Prime Minister, who was visiting British troops involved with training Iraqi forces to tackle terrorism.
Mrs May, who is due to meet European President Jean-Claude Junker for talks in Brussels next Monday, was “optimistic” that the negotiations will produce a good deal for both the UK and EU.
“We are working hard with the EU to ensure that we can move together, but what I am clear about is that we need to move together,” she said.
“We are working hard to ensure that we get the movement onto the trade talks, that I think is not just our interests, but in the interests of the rest of the EU.”
Jacob Rees Mogg highlighted a ‘growing concern’
It is thought unlikely that either the EU or UK will ever put a precise figure on the financial settlement, which covers a complex array of liabilities including funding for projects to which Britain signed up as an EU member, loans which have not yet been repaid, and pensions for European Commission civil servants.
Unofficial calculations have put the gross figure at around 100 billion euro (£88 billion), but deductions for items such as the UK rebate and Britain’s share of the European Investment Bank could reduce the net sum to about half that.
Payments would be made over many years as liabilities fall due, so the final total may not be known for decades.
In the Commons yesterday, Brexit-supporting Tories sounded the alarm about reports of the size of the divorce bill.
Senior backbencher Jacob-Rees Mogg said there was “growing concern that Her Majesty’s Government seems in these negotiations to be dancing to the tune of the European Commission”.
Mr Bone said Brexiteers in his constituency did not want to see more taxpayers’ cash going to the EU
He asked ministers “could be certain that after the 29th March 2019 that we will make no payments to the European Union whatsoever in the absence of a full agreement covering trade?”
And Peter Bone, another leading Euro-sceptic Tory MP, said Brexit-backing voters in his Wellingborough constituency did not want to see more taxpayers’ cash going to Brussels.
“The 60-odd per cent of the people in Wellingborough who voted to leave would want to know what we were doing with £60 billion, they would want it spent on the NHS, social care and defence, they would not want it given to the European Union,” Mr Bone said.
“Would the minister agree such a move would be betraying the trust of the British people?” he asked.
And former Tory minister Robert Halfon said the Government risked undermining its argument on the “public sector and the need for good housekeeping” if the impression is given that “we have wads of cash and loads of money when it comes to Europe”.
Ms Truss dismissed reports that Mrs May was set to agree an exit fee of up to £50billion
He said: “This is not a divorce bill; we are leaving a club and once you leave a club you no longer have to pay subscriptions.”
But Treasury Chief Secretary Elizabeth Truss dismissed reports that the Prime Minister was set to agree an exit fee of up to £50billion as “speculation”.
“The money that we’ve been reading about in the press is speculation,” the Tory minister told MPs.
“These negotiations are ongoing, the discussion is ongoing and we want to secure value for money for the British taxpayer.
“We will not be paying over money until everything is agreed,” Ms Truss said.
She added: “We are not dancing to anyone’s tune, what we care about is the future of Britain’s economy, protecting the British taxpayer from excess payments and making sure that we secure a good deal, which is why it’s so important that we don’t discuss these numbers whilst we’re in the middle of a very important negotiation.”
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Former Brexit minister David Jones yesterday urged the Government not to rush into a deal without seeing the details.
In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s World at One, he said: “This is a very large sum of money and before we make commitments to paying that sort of sum of money, we want to see what is on offer from the EU.
“By all means, do indicate that we are prepared to offer what sums we properly owe, but say at the same time that we do now seek something from the EU in terms of reassurance, and it will have to be a lot more than what is currently on offer.”
Iain Duncan Smith, a former Cabinet minister and leading Leave campaigner, said Britain would “save staggering amounts of money” in the long term through no longer being in the EU.
“Leaving the EU is always a good bargain because we get our money back,” he said.
Mrs May’s official spokesman said the Prime Minister still believes Britain and the EU “need to take a step forward together” in Brexit talks, and that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.