May denies agreement on £50bn Brexit bill

Theresa May has insisted there is still no agreement on the UK’s Brexit bill despite reports British officials have committed up to £50bn to the EU.

The Prime Minister told Sky News the UK is “still in negotiation” over the financial settlement but ruled out paying “huge sums of money to the EU every year” after Brexit.

EU bosses have given Mrs May until Monday to make a fresh offer on key divorce issues if she wants to reach the next phase of Brexit talks – on trade and a transition period – by Christmas.

Yet, with the deadline looming, the Prime Minister denied claims a deal has already been struck on the UK’s payout to Brussels – although she did not correct suggestions a Brexit bill could be as much as £50bn or more.

Speaking to Sky News on a visit to Iraq, Mrs May said: “We are still in negotiations with the EU.

“I set out in my Florence speech that nobody, none of the EU27, would need to worry about having to pay in more or receive less.

“For the current budget plan, I also said that we would honour our commitments and we are still in negotiations with the EU.

“I want to see us able to move forward together into the next stage of the talks when we can look in detail at the deep and special partnership we want to have with the EU once we leave.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May (R) speaks with European Council President Donald Tusk during an EU Eastern Partnership summit with six eastern partner countries at the European Council in Brussels on November 24, 2017

Video: UK could pay an EU divorce bill of up to £50bn

The Prime Minister did not rule continuing to pay money to Brussels beyond the current EU budget period, which ends in 2020.

“I have said that we will honour our commitments, I have also said that there may be particular programmes that we want to continue to be a part of,” she said.

“And if that is the case then, of course, there may be a cost for us to be part of that.

“But, I am very clear that we will not be giving huge sums of money every year to the EU because we are leaving the EU in March 2019.”

Video: Grayling: Brexit bill figure is ‘speculation’

Mrs May also suggested there might be no detail of the UK’s financial settlement, even if it is agreed next month.

Leading Brexiteer ministers are believed to have insisted an increased cash offer must come with a guarantee on a trade deal in the second phase of Brexit talks.

The Prime Minister said: “As the EU themselves have said, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

As well as agreeing a financial settlement, the Prime Minister also needs to meet the EU’s requirement for “sufficient progress” on Irish border issues and citizens’ rights before the EU27 will sanction the second phase of Brexit negotiations.

Mrs May claimed Britain and the EU are “within touching distance” of an agreement on citizens’ rights but she faces a bigger headache over Northern Ireland.

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Video: Johnson hopes Brexit ‘deal’ will be breakthrough

Asked whether she will meet the Republic of Ireland’s demand for a written guarantee there won’t be a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit, Mrs May said: “There is no difference between myself and the parties in Northern Ireland and the Irish Government in wanting to ensure that there will be no hard border.”

Ahead of a crunch EU summit on 14/15 December, where EU27 leaders will decide whether to sanction the second phase of Brexit talks, Mrs May added: “I want to see us moving forward together.

“There have been a number of positive reactions from other European leaders about the importance of these trade talks.

“But I want to ensure that we can go forward together, because I want to build a deep and special partnership with the EU when we have left.

“And I believe that is not just in our interest, I think that’s in the interest of continuing to strengthen the EU.”