Britain will not pay €60bn EU bill after Brexit, TDs told

Tory MP says the UK will not honour existing fiscal commitments during Dublin meeting

Labour MP Hilary Benn attended a Brexit meeting in Dublin on Thursday. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Labour MP Hilary Benn attended a Brexit meeting in Dublin on Thursday. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Britain will not pay a so-called divorce settlement that could be as much as €60 billion to the European Union, a group of TDs and Senators have been told.

UK Conservative MP Karl McCartney said the British government would not pay the EU such a sum as part of the final Brexit settlement.

Mr McCartney is a member of the UK House of Commons committee on Brexit, which was in Dublin yesterday to meet TDs, Senators and business leaders.

The committee, chaired by UK Labour MP Hilary Benn, also met Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald and Dara Murphy, the Minister of State for European Affairs.

It has been reported the EU may ask Britain to pay for outstanding budget obligations as it leaves the EU, with estimates putting the bill at as much as €60 billion.

Sources said Mr McCartney told TDs and Senators during a Chatham House rules discussion yesterday that the British Conservatives would not pay the bill, and said the decision to leave the EU was primarily about sovereignty.

Mr McCartney is also understood to have told TDs a payment to the EU would be politically damaging to the Tories as they enter an anticipated general election in 2020.

He also said there will be no rerun of last year’s British EU referendum.

Mr Murphy later said the “issue of existing commitments will be addressed” during the Brexit talks.

“This is not a fine, these are clear commitments that have already been made by member states,” Mr Murphy said.

“Legally binding contractual commitments have been given by everybody.”

Border controls

Speaking after the meeting in Leinster House, Mr Benn said there was a “strong and unanimous view that nothing must undermine the Good Friday Agreement”.

“No one wants to see the return to Border controls or anything that would attract the attention of those who are not reconciled to the progress that has been made in the peace process and must be safeguarded at all costs. ”

Mr Benn privately told the earlier meeting that politics would solve the difficulties of the Brexit negotiations that applied to Ireland.

He also said there was a need to avoid customs checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and said a transitional Brexit deal was likely.

Fine Gael Senator Neale Richmond, the chairman of the newly-established Seanad Brexit committee, said Ireland would negotiate as part of the European Union’s 27 member states, but added that connections between Britain and Ireland could play a part in the Brexit process.

“Ireland will negotiate as part of the EU27 but we can use our existing institutional arrangements to push our goals in the negotiations and post-Brexit,” Dublin Rathdown-based Mr Richmond said.

“Both the British-Irish Council and British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly must step into the void post-Brexit, monthly meetings of these existing bodies can play a part in easing the transition.”

A number of speakers, such as Fianna Fáil Brexit spokesman Stephen Donnelly, said it made most sense if the EU border was around the island of Ireland, and not at Northern Ireland.