EU owes Britain BILLIONS: May should face down ‘nonsense’ Brexit divorce bill, blasts IDS
BRUSSELS could owe Britain billions of pounds, a former Tory Cabinet minister declared last night.
“We should stop listening to this nonsense about what we should pay them and look into what they owe us,” the senior MP said.
We should stop listening to this nonsense about what we should pay them and look into what they owe us
Mr Duncan Smith yesterday told the Daily Express that ministers should face down the demands from chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier for a divorce payment.
“When two companies go their separate ways they always work out what the assets are and divide them up between them.
I think it is only reasonable that we should do the same,” the former Work and Pensions Secretary said.
“I have seen estimates suggesting we have invested around half a trillion pounds in the EU over the years.
“On top of that, there are intellectual property rights and buildings.
“I think it’s high time we stop this listening to what the EU says about what we owe them – it is nonsense.
“It would be fine by me for us to walk away without paying a penny, but perhaps we should look into the assets because it will amount to a considerable sum.”
Other Brexit supporters were more sceptical about Britain’s chances of reclaiming cash from Brussels.
They pointed to recent legal advice from the House of Lords suggesting the UK is under no legal obligation to pay a penny in a divorce settlement and suggested the same would apply to Brussels in return.
Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “I think we neither owe nor are owed any money.”
Ukip MEP Gerard Batten, Brexit spokesman for the anti-Brussels party, said: “We don’t owe them a penny. We are not under any legal obligation to pay them anything, and the same applies to them.
“But perhaps we could looking into reclaiming some of the money we have invested in the European Investment Bank, which could be up to £10billion.”
A Brussels-based think tank recently estimated that Britain could owed a share of around £50billion of EU assets totalling £130billion.
Bruegel, an independent research organisation, used the EU’s annual accounts to put a scale on the bloc’s assets.
And a separate analysis of the EU’s property portfolio alone estimated that Britain could claim a £4.5billion share from the buildings and other assets including tons of computer equipment and even a string of space satellites.
The most expensive item on the list of nearly 100 items was the towering Berlaymont building in the EU quarter of Brussels, the headquarters of the European Commission housing offices for hundreds of EU civil servants.
According the document, the EU holds the land and buildings under a lease with the next book value given as £294million.
Europe House, the European Commission’s London headquarters in Westminster, was valued at £13.7million.
Whitehall officials are understood to have been discreetly compiling estimates of a potential British share of EU assets in order to counter the expected demands for a divorce settlement.
Britain has been one of the biggest annual contributors to the Brussels budget ever since joining the European Economic Community in 1973.
Theresa May has repeatedly said that Britain will stand by its outstanding financial obligations to Brussels while insisting that the days of British taxpayers paying “huge sums” to Brussels every year are over.
EU officials have declined to comment on the issue of potential liabilities ahead of tomorrow’s triggering of Article 50.
But last week, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker confirmed that Britain’s exit payment could be around £50billion.
“It is around that, but that is not the main story,” he said.
“We have to calculate scientifically what the British commitments were and then the bill has to be paid.”