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The UK does not legally owe Brussels a penny and must not be blackmailed into handing over billions of pounds in the divorce settlement, Tory MPs have claimed.
Brexit-backers have said detailed analysis reveals that in fact the EU actually owes Britain £9 million and its cash demands are “flimsy”.
There is a “powerful” legal case to support walking away without having to pay any money, according to the Conservative European Research Group (ERG).
EU chiefs have suggested Britain faces handing over £50 billion to pay off its obligations to the bloc but Brexit Secretary David Davis insisted he expects the row over money to continue right to the end of the two-year negotiation period.
Tory Charlie Elphicke, an ERG officer, said: “The European Union is trying to blackmail Britain into handing over billions of pounds. Yet this detailed analysis shows that legally we owe the EU nothing.
“In fact, it turns out they owe us 10 billion euro. The Government should stand firm and not be blackmailed into a multi-billion pound divorce bill.”
The ERG analysed headline figures from the EU but its report acknowledged there could be other claims and liabilities.
It said the main claim being touted by Brussels is continued payments to the long-term budget that Britain signed up to.
But it insisted the claim is “devoid of merit as a matter of international law” which means any legal obligation on the UK ends when it leaves.
The group said the UK can only be liable for claims linked to staff pension scheme deficits if it is also given a corresponding share of the assets of the EU.
Its report states there is also a “compelling” argument the UK is entitled to the return of its paid up capital, as well as a corresponding share of the accumulated reserves, of the European Investment Bank.
Suella Fernandes, who chairs the ERG, said: “This is an impressive piece of work that sets out how weak the European Commission’s claims for payment actually are.
“When you enter a negotiation you need to know how strong your case is and it is clear from this analysis that the UK has a very strong legal case indeed.”
Constitutional lawyer Martin Howe, part of the Brexit-backing Lawyers for Britain, said: “The EU Commission’s latest flimsy position paper doesn’t give any credible argument why the UK should be legally liable for the vast sums of money being claimed.
“In law, we will owe no money at all to the EU when we leave, with some small items being more than cancelled out by the value of the UK’s shareholding in the European Investment Bank.”
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