Latvia’s Edgars Rinkevics confirmed the EU was still yet to agree on a “common position” on the proposed financial penalty being imposed on Britain for Brexit.
Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK’s former ambassador to the EU, suggested the bloc’s leaders could make Britain pay as much as £50billion to settle outstanding pension obligations and other costs.
He revealed such a figure had been openly discussed by the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
“The total financial liability, as they see it, is in the order of €40 to €60 billion on exit,” he told Parliament last month.
Latvia's foreign minister has played down claims that the EU will charge Britain to leave the EU
Let’s not rush into figures right now because there is no official position
“We will see when the member states get together whether they sustain that position, go as hardline as that by plonking that number on the table and… whether that’s a genuine pitch or just an opening bid.
“But is there is a big financial issue and financial debate coming about whether we owe anything on exit? Yes there is.”
However, Mr Rinkevics played down the threats, saying there were more important things for leaders to discuss.
“There is no common position yet from the 27 [other EU member states]. We are still formulating, and of course, the common position will be formulated only after the UK formally says we are leaving, then we will start to work – no figures will be out there before.
“The financial settlement will be debated at both levels – the EU formulating mandate and of course, in negotiations. But let’s not rush into figures right now because there is no official position.”
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's chief negotiator on Brexit, said the final bill could eventually total as much as £500 billion, an enormous sum that was immediately dismissed by Brexiteers.
Mr Rinkevics said he placed more importance on securing the rights of EU citizens who were living in the UK before Brexit.
An estimated three million European nationals had moved to the UK before it voted to leave the EU, and there has been much argument over their fates.
Prime Minister Theresa May has been urged by colleagues to not use them as bargaining chips during negotiations.
Michel Barnier is the European Commission's chief Brexit negotiator EU summit 2016: EU leaders meet Fri, October 21, 2016
EU Leaders meet to discuss migration, trade and Russia, including its role in Syria, it will be also the first summit attended by new British Prime Minister Theresa May.
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Italy's Prime minister Matteo Renzi (L) speaks with Luxembourg's Prime minister Xavier Bettel during the second day of an European Union leaders summit
Attempts to force the Government to give all EU citizens in the UK permanent residency after Britain leaves the bloc was defeated after a bid to add the protections in amendments to the Brexit bill were voted down in the House of Commons.
The Latvian foreign minister continued: “I have been speaking with my British counterparts already for some weeks, and what I am hearing is yes, indeed, the British government is interested in keeping people who are here.
“I do hope that it’s about the value they are bringing to this country, they are having quite a good impact on Britain’s economy. Of course, we understand the status of British nationals in Europe, as well as, the status of European nationals in Britain is a subject of negotiation.
“I met with chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier on Wednesday, we were talking about this being in our interest.”
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