Mr Johnson threw a spanner in the works this week as he drew up legislation to override the withdrawal agreement. The move could lead to the collapse of negotiations between the UK and the EU as Mr Johnson plans to send Brussels an ultimatum over their trade deal. He will tell the bloc that an agreement must be reached by October 15 or the UK will walk away. The Prime Minister wants to modify the previously agreed Northern Ireland protocol.
The controversial legislation to be published this week will intentionally try to unpick parts of a deal signed in January that would see some customs checks between the UK mainland and Ireland but crucially keep the Irish border open.
Some Labour insiders described the strategy as “an act of immense bad faith” amid fears this will lead to a no deal Brexit – described as a “good outcome” by the Prime Minister.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis conceded today that a new bill to amend the UK’s Brexit deal with the EU will “break international law”.
While Mr Johnson attempts to seek a more favourable deal, the UK will still have to pay billions to the EU as things stand.
The huge £39billion (€43bn) divorce bill was accepted by the UK despite Mr Johnson’s resistance and Brexiteer fury.
Refusal to now pay could provoke the EU to take the case to the International Court of Justice.
Much to the dismay of leavers in the UK, the divorce bill could still be being paid off by 2060, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.
The OBR estimated in January that the bill stood at just under £30billion – most of this to be paid by 2022, with some relatively small payments still being made until the 2060s.
However, clauses in the UK’s withdrawal agreement with the EU threatens to pile on further costs.
The OBR figure of £33billion (€36.5bn) for the divorce bill is not an absolute number – more of an estimate.
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But on top of this, there are future liabilities in the small print of the withdrawal agreement which could lead to yet more disputes between Brussels and London.
The UK’s future liabilities covers 50 pages of the agreement, and outlines that different parts of the EU have made long-dated loans or financial commitments during the UK’s time in the bloc.
The agreement, which was passed by Parliament and settled on by both the UK and the EU, saddles Britain with a responsibility to pay for a portion of any future losses on those loans and financial commitments, regardless of whether any benefit was reaped from them.
One caveat is that this only applies to loans and commitments made when the UK was still a member state.
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The withdrawal agreement states that the UK will pay a portion through the EU budget – around 12 percent – because that is the average contribution the UK made between 2014 and 2018.
The document states that including 2019 and 2020 in the calculation would make this figure smaller because “the pound weakened against the euro following the EU referendum result and has remained at a lower level since”.