Britain faces a bill for leaving the European Union of €60bn, the UK’s former ambassador to Brussels has warned.
Sir Ivan Rogers told MPs today the Brexit negotiations would be on a “humongous scale” and were the most complex since the Second World War.
He said the “street wisdom” in European capitals was that a UK-EU trade deal would not be completed until the early to mid-2020s. The negotiations, he said, would probably descend into “name-calling” and “fist-fighting”.
Sir Ivan resigned as ambassador last month with an attack on the “muddled thinking” of British politicians in London. He was attacked by pro-Brexit politicians for being too pro-EU. However he rejected the accusation, telling the Commons EU Scrutiny Committee he was “committed to Brexit”.
In December, the BBC reported Sir Ivan had privately warned Downing Street a trade deal with the EU could take ten years. But today he strongly denied handing the letter to the media. “I never leak. I never have, never would,” he said. “I can categorically deny and rebut that.”
Theresa May is set to trigger Article 50 - the formal process of leaving the EU - before the end of March. MPs will vote on a Bill giving her the authority to do so today.
Sir Ivan said the British government had “a hell of a lot of to do on Brexit and at speed” to be ready for the negotiations in time. “People are run off their feet,” he added.
The former ambassador said once the UK leaves the EU, Brussels was facing “a big hole in their budget” and the European Commission would probably expect a divorce bill “of the order of 40-60bn euros”.
Speaking about how the negotiations would progress, he said “I hope I’ve made it sound complex, because it is complex”.
And while May has said she will not give a “running commentary” on Brexit, Sir Ivan said he expected “an awful lot will leak” as “Brussels is very leaky”. He added: “Expect an awful lot of this negotiation to be conducted very publicly.”