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Michael Barnier and Theresa May could come to blows over the figure
The figure was said to have been agreed at a meeting on Monday but it is believed France and Germany were demanding the UK pay upwards of £59billion.
And leaders also said any trade negotiations with Britain could only begin when the final bill is reached.
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The technical meeting, held just a month before the prime minister triggers Article 50, is now likely to spark opposition as the settlement will be disputed.
Theresa May previously rejected suggestions Britain would pay £50bn
Britain is already committed to continued payments to the Brussels bloc until 2020
Britain is already committed to continued payments to the Brussels bloc until 2020, spending tens of billions of euros on EU projects as well as the pensions of officials.
The UK had hoped any future trade agreement could be signed in parallel to discussions.
And Mrs May had hoped for an early deal to secure the rights of British expats living in Europe – with reciprocal rights for EU citizens living and working in the UK.
What Theresa May's 12-point Brexit plan really means Mon, January 16, 2017
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Continued cooperation with the EU to tackle terrorism and international crime.
In secret talks on the sidelines at the EU conference in Valletta, Malta, last week, the Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy confirmed he was in favour of a quick deal on “reciprocal rights”.
But it now seems her hopes could be dashed following this week’s meeting.
Sources close to the negotiations revealed UK Brexit Secretary David Davis may be forced to spend up to two days a week in face to face talks with Mr Barnier.
Just two months ago, Downing Street rejected suggestions that Britain would face a £50billion divorce bill from the European Union.
France and Germany were demanding the UK pay upwards of £59billion
Speaking in December, Mrs May’s official spokesperson said negotiations had not yet begun and that a figure on what the UK might pay “does not actually exist”.
A statement read: “As was set out last night by my colleagues in Brussels, that is one of a range of issues that will have to be dealt with.
“The outcome of those negotiations will be something for the future.”
Downing Street had previously only said that liabilities would be “one of the issues that will be for discussion” in Brexit talks.
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