A leaked draft copy of the EU's negotiating platform with the UK on Brexit has shown that Britain will be threatened with court action if Theresa May refuses to pay the £50bn bill. The so-called 'divorce bill' is expected to be one of the first hurdles May's government faces when she triggers Article 50 and embarks on negotiations with the bloc.
The draft agenda, seen by Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, suggests that the EU could take Britain to the International Court of Justice at The Hague if the bill is not settled. It also says that the EU will not give in to the caveat that single market access will only be available with freedom of movement.
Chancellor Philip Hammond has come under fire over concerns that he is not "sufficiently tough" enough on the EU and over suggestions that he is not against paying a large sum as part of the country's exit from the union.
"As the prime minister said, we do not want to pay huge sums. We think anything over £2bn or £3bn is not possible. There are those round the cabinet table who think we are going to have to pay a huge amount to get out, and the chancellor is on that side," The Times quoted a senior government source as saying.
A report earlier in March from a House of Lord committee said that the UK could leave the EU without paying anything, though arguments on the other side say that the UK has commitments to the EU budget made under the previous prime minister, David Cameron, that cannot be escaped.
Lady Falkner of Margravine, chair of the House of Lords EU financial affairs sub-committee said: "On the basis of the legal opinions we have considered we conclude that, as a matter of EU law, Article 50 [of the Treaty on European Union] allows the UK to leave the EU without being liable for outstanding financial obligations under the EU budget and related financial instruments."
Theresa May has set the 29 March as the date Article 50 will be triggered and the two year process of negotiations with the EU will begin.