NAO to investigate ‘reasonableness’ of £39bn Brexit divorce bill by March

Written by Tamsin Rutter on 11 January 2018 in News
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Auditor general Amyas Morse confirms scrutiny plans following request from Treasury committee chair Nicky Morgan

The Brexit divorce bill is estimated at £35-39bn. Credit: PA

The National Audit Office has confirmed it will examine Britain’s withdrawal payment to the European Union, which the prime minister said last month would be in the region of £35-39bn.

Amyas Morse, comptroller and NAO auditor general, stated that the public spending watchdog was in discussions with the Treasury over the UK’s financial settlement with the EU and would report by March.

He said: “I can confirm that we intend to report on the main elements of the financial settlement with the EU. We are already in discussions with HM Treasury aimed at planning our work. I expect our report to be published in late March.”


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The announcement was welcomed by Treasury select committee chair Nicky Morgan, a Conservative MP, who wrote to Morse last month requesting that it “examines the reasonableness” of the divorce bill, including the assumptions and methodologies used.

Prime minister Theresa May told Parliament in December that the UK had agreed with the EU “the scope of commitments, and methods for valuation and adjustments to those values” relating to a bill to be paid when Britain leaves the bloc in 2019.

She said current calculations put the valuation of that withdrawal payment at £35-39bn.

Morse was asked about the NAO’s role in scrutinising the payment during a Treasury committee hearing on the UK’s economic relationship with the EU in November. 

He said that scrutiny of the payment depended on the shape of the settlement and how it is arrived at.

“If it is arrived at under a series of specific heads, each one of which supposedly has some value associated with it, then we would be in a position to do something in examining them,” he said. 

Morse added: “At present my thinking is that we would approach it quite like a normal large transactional deal, where you examine all the elements in it and then look at how they combine for reasonableness and range of value. It is quite familiar to people in the financial sector."

About the author

Tamsin Rutter is senior reporter for Civil Service World and tweets as @TamsinRutter

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