EU owes UK millions put Tariffs on German /French imports make them pay us

This is the colossal bill that the EU wants Britain to fork out as an exit penalty fee.

Quoting an extraordinary figure of £51billion, around five times our net annual contribution to Brussels, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier says that the vast sum is owed to cover pensions, liabilities and special programmes.

However the reality is that the cash is needed to fill the financial black hole left by our departure, since Britain has long been the second largest contributor to the EU budget.

One Eurocrat was privately frank at the weekend about this naked self-interest masquerading as financial justice.

“Member states are maximalist on the budget issue because if Britain doesn’t pay other member states will have to pay.”

Yet there is no justification for this exorbitant demand, which is little more than a form of institutionalised larceny.

To pay up would be an act of craven surrender.

For a start, it is absurd of the EU now to pretend that it can produce an exact figure on Britain’s alleged debt, given that Brussels is a byword for financial incompetence, mismanagement and extravagance.

Notoriously, the EU’s accounts have not been given a clean bill of health for two decades since they are so riddled with abuses.

Moreover, there is nothing in any EU treaty that stipulates a legal duty to pay any exit bill.

Only last month, a financial committee of the House of Lords concluded that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty “allows the UK to leave the EU without being liable for outstanding financial obligations under the EU budget”.

Most important of all, the sums do not add up.

If anything, Britain is actually owed money by the EU because of all the funds we have poured into the organisation.

It was our money that helped to build up the EU’s stock of cash, property, equipment and financial assets, thought to be worth at least £36billion.

The EU property portfolio is enormous, including 1.9 million square metres in Brussels and 300 offices overseas.

The EU’s art collection is thought to be worth at least £15million while the wine cellars of the Council of Ministers alone have 27,000 bottles.

A fair share for Britain, based on our current contribution, would bring us £4.5billion.

We also have 16 per cent of the accumulated capital of £56billion in the European Investment Bank, worth around £9billion, and our share of monies owed to the EU, mainly in loans, could be as much as £12.5billion.

It could also be argued that we deserve some recompense for all the welfare benefits and free NHS treatment we have provided to EU citizens, probably totalling more than £3billion a year.

We also have to pay £170million annually for the costs of EU nationals in prison here.

Similarly, accumulated unpaid loans to EU students were reported to have cost the taxpayer £89million.

What is clear is that we have more than paid our way over the years with nothing in return but the erosion of our democratic sovereignty.

This further attempted cash grab is just another example of Brussels’s imperialist bullying, precisely the kind of behaviour that led to the defiant, decisive Brexit vote.