- Reuters/Francois Lenoir
- British public are overwhelmingly opposed to the government agreeing a large Brexit divorce bill with the EU. 72% say it would unacceptable to pay £30 billion to leave. There is widespread opposition to a bill of even £10 billion. British negotiators have so far refused to state the figure they will be willing to pay.
LONDON – More than 70% of voters think it would be unacceptable for Britain to agree to pay a bill of more than £30 billion as part of its withdrawal from the EU.
The poll, conducted by Guardian/ICM, showed that 72% of respondents thought that £30 billion was too much to pay the EU when the UK leaves, while only 11% thought this would be acceptable.
A further 65% said a bill of £20 billion and over would be unacceptable, while even a figure of just £10 billion found widespread opposition with voters evenly split between 41% saying it would be acceptable and 40% saying it would be unacceptable.
Brexit secretary David Davis has previously said that while the UK “will meet any real international obligations… there won’t be a number [agreed for the divorce bill] by October or November.”
The foreign secretary Boris Johnson said earlier this year that the EU could “go whistle” if they asked for a large payment for leaving.
The UK is expected to pay the EU a sum that it owes in contributions once Brexit happens, with some reports suggesting that the government is prepared to pay up to £36 billion in financial obligations, which Downing Street dismissed as “inaccurate speculation.”
However, with the new poll showing that even a figure of £20 billion would be opposed by 65% of voters, the government may be forced into a rethink.
The EU will not allow negotiations to move onto the next stage until “sufficient progress” has been made on three key issues, one of which is the amount the UK will pay when it leaves, alongside the Irish border and citizens’ rights.
On Tuesday morning European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said there were an “enormous amount of issues” still to be resolved in Brexit negotiations, which restarted this week.
The research also showed that there is public support for a smaller fee being paid to the EU, with 41% of voters finding a figure of £10 billion acceptable, compared to 40% who find it unacceptable.
Davis said on Monday that he wanted to see “flexibility and imagination on both sides” in negotiations, but the EU will not move onto discussions of the future relationship until the three key issues have been tackled.
Talks on trade will likely be delayed until the winter, as the UK refuses to admit that it is liable to pay a divorce bill, blocking progress in negotiations.