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  1. ITV Report

May and Brexit ministers to discuss EU 'divorce bill,' which could top £38 billion

Chancellor Philip Hammond said the UK will make a financial proposal to the EU in the next three-and-a-half weeks. Credit: PA

Theresa May and the members of her Cabinet tasked with Brexit negotiations will meet Monday to discuss Britain’s “divorce bill” offer to the European Union, a vital stage that Brussels has said needs finalising before trade talks can go ahead.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said the UK will make a financial proposal to the EU in the next three-and-a-half weeks after European Council president Donald Tusk set a deadline of the start of December for movement on the bill, alongside the Irish border question.

EU leaders are due to meet on December 14-15 at a European Council summit.

"We are now I think on the brink of making some serious movement forward in our negotiations with the European Union, and starting to unblock that logjam so that people can start to see clarity about the future," Hammond told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.

Reports suggest May could be willing to offer a further £20 billion in payments, bringing the total sum of British liabilities to around £38 billion, short of the 60 billion euro (£53 billion) sought by Brussels.

"The Prime Minister is clear that we will meet our obligations to the European Union and as you know, we want to make progress in the discussions at the December Council at the European Union and the Europeans have asked us for more clarity on what we mean by meeting our obligations," Hammond said.

"We will make our proposals to the European Union in time for the Council, I am sure about that."

Hammond said Britain would honour its debts but also "negotiate hard" on the financial settlement, noting the urgency to secure a post-Brexit implementation period for British businesses.

"It is a wasting asset and that's why it's in everybody's interest that we get the implementation agreement as soon as possible," he said.

However, Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg urged the Government not to fall into a "trap" on the divorce bill.

"They need our money," he told BBC Sunday Politics. "If we don't pay any money for the final 21 months of the multi-annual financial framework, the EU has about £20 billion - £18-20 billion gap in its finances.

"It has no legal authority to borrow. And that means either it's insolvent, or the Germans and others have to pay more. Or possibly some receive less. So our negotiating position on money is very strong."

Conservative former minister Robert Halfon warned the public would go "bananas" if the UK offered £40 to £50 billion to the EU at a time of public spending cuts. "If we start saying that we're going to give £40 to £50 billion to the EU, I think the public will go bananas, absolutely spare,” He told BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour.

"I voted Remain because I believe in alliances of democracies in an uncertain world, but we voted to leave, the public want to leave, and I cannot believe that the public would accept such a huge amount when we need money for our schools, our hospitals, our housing and many other things."