The former head of the Foreign Office between 2006 and 2010 said “no British Government” could pay a “big cheque” without agreeing a future agreement with Brussels first.
Speaking on Sky News, the ex-UK ambassador to France said the bill – which it is thought could cost as much as £52billion – and the rights of EU citizens in the UK, as well as Britons living in the EU, would be the first bones of contention.
He said: “I think the first big clash is going to come on this demand that we settle on the money before we move on to talk about what the future relationship will look like.
“Personally, I don’t see any British Government can do that. To agree to sign a big cheque without knowing what we’re going to get in terms of a future relationship with the EU doesn’t look to me to be possible.
Lord Ricketts claimed the "first big skirmish" in Brexit negotiations would be on the divorce bill
I think the first big clash is going to come on this demand that we settle on the money
“So that’s going to be the first big skirmish. We’d also have to talk early on about the EU citizens and the rights of British people living in the EU and European citizens here.
“But we’ve got to get over that demand that we can’t move on to the future relationship until we’ve settled the money issue.”
He added it would need to be an “exceptionally bad deal” for the UK to be worse than having “no deal” with the Brussels bloc at all.
Theresa May's most powerful quotes Tue, March 28, 2017 Getty Images 1 of 8
'I will be ruthless in cutting out waste, streamlining structures and improving efficiency'
Britain could be forced to pay £50 billion to exit the bloc to settle its membership ‘bill’ and Brussels has suggested this should happen before Brexit negotiations start.
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Theresa May is preparing to trigger Article 50 on Wednesday, which will start two years of negotiations to leave the European Union.