Britain must not sign a “surrender document” which could involve up to £59 billion of taxpayers’ cash being given to the EU, a Conservative former Cabinet minister has said.
John Redwood claimed the UK should “stand up” to the EU, demand a free trade agreement and say it will not pay for such an arrangement as he voiced his opposition to existing plans for a £39 billion divorce bill to settle liabilities as part of any Brexit deal.
The Leave-backing MP also warned the Government that it must not “give in yet again” by extending the Brexit transition period, which he claimed could cost the UK up to £20 billion extra.
Asking an urgent question in the Commons, Mr Redwood said he believed the EU could “front end-load their expenses” for the next financial period which would be covered by any extension of the transition.
He told the Commons: “We are desperately in need of more money for our schools, for our hospitals, for Universal Credit and for our defence.
“We desperately need money so we can honour our tax cutting pledges which we all made in our Conservative manifesto.”
Mr Redwood added: “The economy has been slowed deliberately by a fiscal and monetary squeeze which we need to lift.
“We need tax cuts to raise people’s take home pay so that they have more spending power.
“All this is possible if we don’t give £39 billion to the EU, and all this would be even more possible if we don’t pledge another £15 billion or £20 billion for some time never if we’re now going to give in yet again.
“So when will this Government stand up to the EU, when will it say it wants a free trade agreement and it doesn’t see the need to pay for it, and when will it rule out signing a withdrawal agreement - which is a surrender document which we cannot afford?”
Treasury minister John Glen replied: “When the sum of £35 billion to £39 billion was agreed, it was also agreed on three principles - that the UK would not be making its payments sooner than it would otherwise have done, it would be based on the actual rather than the forecast and it would also mean that we would include all benefits as a member state.”
Mr Glen said he recognised the “wide range of concerns” among MPs, but negotiations are at a “delicate” stage.
The minister earlier said a proposal to extend the transition period for a “matter of months” beyond December 2020 has been floated, amid a desire to break a deadlock in Brexit talks which has emerged over the Irish border.
He added: “This is not expected to be used because we’re working to ensure that we have a future relationship in place by the end of December 2020.”