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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Boris Johnson admits UK will have to pay for Brexit divorce

A month after saying the EU can 'go whistle' over multi-billion pound settlement, UK foreign secretary accepts that country will have to pay to leave the bloc

Hand's up if you're paying: Boris Johnson says the UK will pay a Brexit divorce bill AFP PHOTO / STR
Hand's up if you're paying: Boris Johnson says the UK will pay a Brexit divorce bill AFP PHOTO / STR

The UK’s foreign secretary has conceded that the country will have to pay to leave the European Union after previously claiming the bloc could “go whistle” over demands for a multi-billion pound divorce bill.

Boris Johnson said that the UK would meet its legal obligations but declined to say how much it would be prepared to pay, as negotiations continue with Brussels over the final figure.

“Of course we will meet our obligations, we are law-abiding, bill-paying people,” he told the BBC. “The UK has contributed hundreds of billions over the years ... well, we will certainly meet our obligations.”

The comments marked a change of tone from his response in the House of Commons last month to reports that the EU could be seeking between £60 billion and £100 billion to cover previous commitments and other Brexit-related costs.

Hardline pro-Brexit campaigners within his party had said that the government should refuse to pay any sum as part of a deal to leave the European Union.

“The sums that I have seen that they propose to demand from this country seem to be extortionate, and I think that to ‘go whistle’ is an entirely appropriate expression,” he said on July 11.

The divorce bill payment is a key stumbling block in negotiations. Until that issue is settled, the EU will not discuss the future trading relationship between Britain and its remaining 27 members.