Britain’s multi-billion pound Brexit bill will be investigated by a watchdog over whether it represents good value for taxpayers.
Public spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) announced it will deliver a final verdict on the estimated £39bn divorce sum in March.
It comes after a direct intervention by Nicky Morgan, a senior rebel Tory MP who chairs the Commons’ Treasury Select Committee.
Ms Morgan called on the NAO to probe “the reasonableness of the payment” so MPs could better scrutinise the Government’s Brexit deal.
She said: “Various wide-ranging sums for the UK’s withdrawal payment to the EU have been bandied about. Last month, the Prime Minister told Parliament that the so-called Brexit divorce bill will be £35-39 billion.
“Parliament must be able to scrutinise the reasonableness of this bill.
“Accordingly, I have written to Sir Amyas to request that the NAO examines the withdrawal payment, including the assumptions and methodologies used.”
Ms Morgan was a fierce campaigner for Remain in the EU referendum and has spoken out against her party’s position on Brexit after being fired by Theresa May in July 2016.
Responding to her, NAO auditor general Sir Amywas Morse announced: “I can confirm that we intend to report on the main elements of the financial settlement with the EU.
“We are already in discussions with HM Treasury aimed at planning our work. I expect our report to be published in late March.”
Chris Leslie, a Labour MP and member of the pro-EU campaign Open Britain, claimed it was right to investigate.
He said: “With our NHS in crisis and public services struggling, the Government must be transparent about how all taxpayers’ money in spent, so it is right for the National Audit Office to investigate the Brexit divorce bill.
“The economic cost of Brexit will be huge – this is just the tip of the iceberg.
“If the British people decide these costs aren’t worth it, they have every right to keep an open mind about whether it’s really the right path for the country.”
The probe will likely rile ardent Brexiteers, some of whom think the UK should pay Brussels nothing, and others who have resigned the country to the sum as a price for freedom from the EU.
Theresa May upped her offer to chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier when previous suggestions of a £10bn or £20bn blocked talks moving on to the second crucial stage.