Brexit divorce bill jumps by £10 billion, government quietly admits

Brexit divorce bill jumps by £10 billion, government quietly admits
New figure of £42.5bn slipped out by Treasury as MPs head home for summer recess

The Brexit divorce bill negotiated by Boris Johnson has increased by nearly £10bn compared to the official estimate when the UK left the EU, ministers have admitted.

The Treasury slipped out an “updated government estimated of the financial settlement” in a written ministerial statement on Thursday as MPs headed back to their constituencies for summer recess.

The statement, from chief secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke, says the bill is now £42.5bn, which “shows an increase against the original range”.

When Britain left the EU in January 2020 the Office for Budget Responsibility put the figure at £32.9bn, meaning the cost of the financial settlement has soared by nearly £10bn.

Opposition parties said Boris Johnson’s “terrible deal” was costing taxpayers

In the statement, the minister insisted that the figure should be compared to the “original range” of £35-39bn, which would make for a smaller but still substantial increase of around £4bn.

But the timing of the Treasury’s statement at the start of the summer recess means MPs will be unable to hold ministers to account for the increase in the Commons, because it will not be sitting.

The Treasury says the increase is “primarily due to the most recent valuation of the UK’s obligation under Article 142 for EU pensions”.

The government pledged to pay its share of EU official pensions as a condition for getting a withdrawal agreement and avoiding a no-deal Brexit.

The increase in these payments is related to higher inflation, which has soared to record levels in recent months.

The Treasury also said in the statement that it does not plan to release further estimates of the bill, even if it increases further – and that the actual costs will be buried in departmental small print.

“As all payments will be made from departmental accounts, HM Treasury do not plan to replicate or consolidate financial reporting on the TCA in future editions of the statement,” the minister said.

“Nor do we intend to report annually our revised estimate of liabilities expected under the TCA, because actual costs will, in future years, appear in the departmental resource accounts.”

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrats’ foreign affairs spokesperson, said: “Boris Johnson’s terrible deal, backed by Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, is costing British taxpayers billions of pounds. This is the price of years of Conservative chaos and neglect.

“Combined with the government’s botched trade agreements, they are leaving British farmers and businesses wrapped in red tape – unable to compete.

“The Conservative government must come clean about how much more their bad deal will cost the country in future.”