Brexit divorce bill: How much does the UK owe the EU?

By Reality Check team
BBC News

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A model of a bride and groom standing on a pile of eurosImage source, Getty Images

The UK agreed to make a series of payments to the European Union, as part of the deal to leave the EU.

The UK formally left in January 2020 but the relationship between the two sides largely stayed the same until both sides signed a trade deal for goods on 30 December 2020.

The payments - often called the "divorce bill - run into many billions of pounds.

How much does the UK owe?

Originally, the settlement was estimated to be about £39bn. Some of this was paid as the UK continued to make its regular contributions to the EU budget throughout 2020, under the terms of the deal.

From January 2021, the estimated bill was £25bn left to pay by 2057, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), almost £18bn of which will be paid in the first five years.

How much is the UK going to be paying to the EU?. Net payments in £bn.  .

In these early years, a lot of the payments will be for things that the UK committed to while it was a member of the EU, but had not yet funded.

Most of the money paid in later years will be contributions towards funding the pensions of EU staff.

In July 2021, Downing Street rejected an EU estimate of a £40.8bn total bill. The government insisted the figure was between £35bn and £39bn.

But in July 2022, the government's own estimate put the bill higher, at £42.5bn. It says the increase is due to the most recent valuation of the UK's obligation for EU pensions.

There will also be money paid back to the UK from things like its money in the European Investment Bank (just over £3bn) and the European Central Bank (about £50m).

The UK will also receive a share of any money paid to the EU in fines that were imposed before the end of 2020, which is estimated to be worth about £1.2bn.

Continuing contributions

The UK will also continue to make contributions to take part in three EU programmes for 2021-27:

  • Horizon Europe research scheme
  • Euratom nuclear research programme
  • Copernicus, the earth monitoring project

As part of its participation in Euratom, the UK will also continue to be involved with the ITER project to use magnetic fusion to develop a new type of power plant.

It will also be able to access the services of the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking programme, although it will not participate in it.

However, the UK's participation in EU programmes has not yet begun, according to the House of Commons report from June 2022.

The delay has been attributed to wider political disputes between the UK and EU, including over the Northern Ireland protocol.

We do not yet know exactly how much the UK will end up paying to be involved with these programmes - it will be calculated based on the size of the UK's economy, compared with the size of the whole of the EU economy.

The government said that if the UK could not take part in Horizon research scheme, funding would go to UK Government research and development programmes, including those which support new international partnerships.