Sir Ivan Rogers told MPs the EU will be looking for a £50billion Brexit bill
Sir Ivan Rogers, who last month dramatically quit as Britain’s top diplomat in Brussels, today told MPs the UK’s vote to quit the EU had thrown the bloc’s spending plans into disarray.
As one of the largest contributors to Brussels’ coffers, Sir Ivan outlined how Britain had “created a major issue” for the remaining 27 EU member states by leaving a “big hole in their budget”.
Appearing before the House of Commons’ European Scrutiny Committee, the ex-civil servant outlined the problem for the EU over the UK exiting within the bloc’s seven-year budget period.
Brussels has currently set its spending plans until 2020, with Brexit due to be completed in 2019.
Sir Ivan told MPs how EU officials had expressed their concerns Britain had “exploded a bomb under the multi-year financial framework”.
He said: “The mere fact of our exiting during the period of the framework causes them immense financial difficulty.
“That may be part of the leverage we have in this negotiation depending on what we're prepared to do.”
Sir Ivan suggested some member states would now be facing a 10 to 12 per cent blackhole in their spending plans due to the potential cut in EU funding.
But the former diplomat warned the looming budget blackhole could make remaining EU member states even more determined to extract a multi-billion pound exit bill from the UK in divorce talks.
Sir Ivan described suggestions the EU could try and get Britain to cough up as much as £50billion on exit as a “genuine” threat.
He revealed such a figure is “openly” being discussed by the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and others.
Sir Ivan said: “The total financial liability, as they see it, is in the order of 40 to 60 billion euros on exit.”
He added: “We will see when 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 a big financial issue and financial debate coming about whether we owe anything on exit? Yes there is.”
The total financial liability, as they see it, is in the order of 40 to 60 billion euros on exit
Sir Ivan Rogers
The ex-ambassador agreed with Labour MP and prominent Brexit campaigner Kate Hoey the UK Government could refuse to pay an exit bill.
But he warned that would open up the possibility “the negotiation in the end goes nowhere”.
Sir Ivan revealed Brussels officials and EU member states did not fully believe the Prime Minister’s insistence Britain would rather walk away with no Brexit deal rather than a bad deal.
He said: “The view from many is the implications for the UK of walking away without any deal on the economic side… are, from their perspective - which may be a misreading of us - so unpalatable that we won't do it.”
He added: “A desire to simply to walk away from the table and say 'if you're sticking liabilities of that sort on the table we're not playing' is not a route they think we will take.”
Theresa May's 12 point Brexit plan
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Continued cooperation with the EU to tackle terrorism and international crime.
Sir Ivan told MPs the hole in the EU budget left by Britain could lead to infighting among the remaining 27 member states over which countries should fill the funding gap.
But he also warned they could easily agree the UK is ”the rogue who have ceased to pay our dues”.
He said: “We have created a major issue inside the 27 with the hole we will have created by exiting in the budget.
“When you are a leader of one of those 27 coming to this table on the UK withdrawal treaty money will be on your mind.
“I can't tell you they will all stick to 40 billion, 60 billion euros… but will they care passionately about this and be raising it with the Prime Minister over the next months? Yes.”
Sir Ivan resigned from his post last month following a huge row with Brexit supporters over whether he had warned ministers a trade deal with the EU could take Britain up to 10 years to negotiate.