TORY MPs have warned Theresa May they will not agree to using taxpayers’ money to pay a “divorce bill” for leaving the EU.
The threat of a major rebellion came after Whitehall sources suggested that the Government is prepared to pay Brussels a £36billion exit fee.
The briefing infuriated senior backbenchers who dismissed the suggestion as “nonsense” but made it clear that any exit payment would not get their support in Parliament.
The figure is much lower than the cash-strapped EU’s demand of up to £78billion as it faces the prospect of losing its second-biggest financial contributor.
However, a senior Government source tried to calm the anger by saying the £36billion figure was “wrong”.
But the source also appeared to confirm that the Government is preparing to offer a divorce fee although the £36billion is “much higher” than the amounts being discussed currently.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Exiting the EU also pointed to previous comments made by Brexit secretary David Davis that Britain “will meet its obligations”.
The prospect of Britain paying anything to leave the EU was met with a flat rejection by senior Conservative backbenchers who made it clear that Britain owes Brussels nothing.
Former Cabinet minister John Redwood said that ministers do not have the power on their own to sign off extra billions to Brussels beyond the current Budget period which ends in 2020.
He said it was “completely ridiculous” to suggest the UK would have to pay to get Brussels to talk about trade because the EU desperately needed a deal.
He added: “Ministers would be quite wrong to be talking about any figures, we don’t owe them any money.
“It would be silly to be offering something when the EU is still not very willing to talk and is not coming up with anything constructive on its own side.
“The EU’s tactic is very clear. It’s divide and rule to try and get Britain negotiating with herself.
“It would require an Act of Parliament and I certainly wouldn’t vote for it.”
Conservative MP Peter Bone said: “One of the prime reasons the UK voted to leave the EU was to stop sending them billions of pounds per year, so it would be totally bizarre to give the EU any money, let alone £36billion, given also that over the years that we have been in the EU or its predecessor we have given them, net, over £200billion.
“So if there was going to be any transfer of money then it should be from the EU to the UK.”
The Wellingborough MP added: “I think it would be very strange of Parliament to pay billions of pounds to leave an organisation that you have given hundreds of billions of pounds to and got nothing in return.
“That would be a very strange decision, so I don’t think it would happen.”
Richard Tice, the co-chairman of Leave Means Leave, branded the £36billion suggestion as “outrageous”.
He said: “This has all come about because of Westminster Remainer whingers damaging our negotiating position and weak civil servants and politicians not planning a credible World Trade Organization position from day one.”