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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

UK ‘agrees to increase Brexit divorce bill’

Britain’s financial settlement upon leaving the EU is one of the key sticking points in the talks with Brussels

Prime Minister Theresa May met with her ministers on Monday to try to make progress on stalled Brexit talks. EPA / Andy Rain
Prime Minister Theresa May met with her ministers on Monday to try to make progress on stalled Brexit talks. EPA / Andy Rain

Members of Theresa May’s Cabinet have agreed that the UK should increase its Brexit “divorce bill” offer to the EU, it is understood.

It came after Prime Minister Theresa May met with her ministers on Monday to try to make progress on stalled Brexit talks.

Britain’s financial settlement upon leaving the EU is one of the key sticking points preventing the negotiations from moving onto a future trade relationship.

Media reports said the ministers had agreed to make an offer which would increase the value of Mrs May's existing commitment of £20 billion. The Independent news website said Mrs May's opening offer could double to around £40 billion but gave no details. The BBC reported that no specific amounts had been discussed during the meeting.

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Mrs May met with ministers amid expectations that she will offer the EU more than she committed to during a speech in Florence in September which failed to provide a meaningful breakthrough in the stalled negotiations.

The EU told Mrs May on Friday that there was more work to be done to unlock the Brexit talks, repeating its early December deadline for her to flesh out Britain's opening offer on the financial settlement.

Despite growing pressure from businesses to show she can drive talks onto the subject of future trading relations with the EU, Mrs May's office gave little away as to the conclusions of Monday's meeting.

"It remains our position that nothing's agreed until everything's agreed in negotiations with the EU," a source from May's office said. "As the Prime Minister said this morning, the UK and the EU should step forward together."

Mrs May has repeatedly signalled that she will increase her initial offer that is thought to be worth about a third of what Brussels wants.

But, wary of the need to keep the peace in her Conservative Party, which has a powerful faction insisting Britain should be paying the minimum possible to the EU and using the cash offer to leverage better exit terms, Mrs May has avoided publicly discussing any figure.

Instead, she has said Britain will meet its financial obligations to the bloc, a commitment which remains wide open to interpretation.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said on Sunday that the government would submit its proposal to the EU before a December 14-15 summit.

He warned Britain would be prepared to negotiate hard over the bill, acknowledging differences of opinion with the EU on the value of liabilities, and whether Britain was even liable at all for some elements of the total amount mooted by Brussels.

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