Lib Dem MP Claims £50bn Brexit ‘Divorce’ Bill Could Lead To Second Referendum

A Lib Dem MP hopes reports of a £50bn Brexit ‘divorce’ bill will lead to heightened calls for a second referendum.

Tom Brake, the party’s Brexit spokesperson, told a House of Lords committee ‘indications’ of the cost of the UK’s exit from the EU could bolster support for another vote.

Asked if a second referendum was likely, Brake said: “I hope so, and I hope that the announcement – albeit not a public announcement – but an indication that the settlement bill is of the order of £45 or £50bn that has been made today may also add to the demand.”

Downing Street has so far refused to confirm or deny reports that the final settlement will be between £42bn and £52bn, as part of an agreement-in-principle reportedly reached last week.

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer, who also gave evidence to the Lords committee, said he did not believe a re-run of last year’s vote would “take us very far” if the UK were to enter a two-year transitional period when it officially leaves the EU in March 2019.

“There are a number of legal problems with some of the propositions sometimes argued about,” the former Director of Public Prosecutions said.

“I firmly believe we need to go on to transitional arrangements on same basic terms as now…so [the terms of] a final deal will not be known until the end of the transitional period.

“The problem with having a second referendum [at that point] is that two years previously we will have left the EU, and therefore ‘In’ does not seem to be a question you can put on the ballot paper.”

Earlier on Wednesday, transport secretary and Brexiteer Chris Grayling told the Today programme there was “a lot of speculation about numbers” but refused to confirm any potential divorce bill figure.

“I think we will leave that for the negotiations when they are going to take place at the European Council,” he said.

“We have been very clear we will meet our obligations as we leave…but we don’t want to walk away on bad terms.

“Our goal is to be good friends and good neighbours with the European Union and to trade freely with the European Union and carry on as friends.

“The price is meeting the obligations that we have built up – no more, no less than that.”

May is due to meet President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and European Union Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday, when the government hopes negotiations will be able to progress to discussing the UK’s future trade terms with Europe.