Britain may have to continue paying billions of pounds into EU coffers after withdrawal from the European Union, a government official has warned.
While the UK is unlikely to pay into the main EU budget after Brexit, a senior Whitehall official has suggested that the UK will have to pay into EU special funds to secure preferential trading terms, the BBC reported.
Vote Leave famously claimed that withdrawing from the EU would save the UK £350 million (US$428 million) a week, plastering the pledge to use the saved money for NHS funding all over campaign buses during the referendum. However, an unnamed cabinet minister told the broadcaster that Britain may end up paying much of that money into EU funds to secure favorable access to the single market.
Chairman of the Commons Treasury Select Committee Andrew Tyrie backed the claims, telling Newsnight that Britain would likely have to continue making a sizable contribution to the EU to ensure a “high degree of access to the single market.”
Tyrie, who campaigned for the Remain side, warned that reverting to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules would risk “an economic shock and certainly an economic downturn.”
Tory MP John Redwood dismissed the reports, claiming that the anonymous Whitehall officials were disgruntled Remain supporters who did not speak for the government.
“You can’t make up these stories just because some officials in Whitehall are unhappy,” he told the BBC.
“The officials in Whitehall I’m sure exist, and I’m sure they wanted to stay in, and they’re now putting out this kind of information, but they’re not speaking for the government.”
“There is not a shred of evidence that the government wishes to give away this money,” Redwood added.
The leading Brexit campaigner argued that paying into the EU funds would undermine the sovereignty guaranteed by Brexit.
“Obviously, you’re not sovereign if you have to keep paying money away to some foreign power,” he said.
The Whitehall source told the BBC that the UK may have to continue paying up to £5 billion a year into EU funds—a little over half the amount the UK contributed to the EU in 2015, according to estimates from the Office for Budget Responsibility.
“Do you realize that if we gave away the full net contribution that would be twice as much as the amount we’d have to pay in tariffs?” Redwood said.