It is understood that Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, is currently drawing up a list of up to €60 billion of liabilities, including spending commitments signed off by the UK prior to the referendum in 2016 that will remain outstanding when it officially leaves the EU. To counter these liabilities the UK is preparing to demand a substantial share of EU assets worth more than €150 billion, as calculated by Bruegel, an independent think tank based in Brussels. Of this, around €40 billion is made up of cash, property and other financial assets, while €56 billion is in loans owed to the EU. A further €45.2 billion represents committed funds that may never be spent, €10.3 billion owed in budget contributions to the EU and €1 billion of other disposable assets. As the EU’s second largest net contributor and a member for more than 40 years, it is expected that the UK Government will put forward its case for a proportion of the organisation’s net assets, which realistically could be up to €20 billion to offset against the liabilities. The Government is also likely to argue that the liabilities have been over-stated; for example, over the past few years future pension costs have almost doubled due to them being calculated on the basis of current interest rates. Zsolt Darvas, one of the authors of the Bruegel report, said “I could imagine that there will be different shares for the assets and the liabilities; one reason for that is that in terms of the liabilities they have been agreed by all member countries, but for the assets it would be wrong to treat Britain the same as Croatia, that has only been a member for a few years.”
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