Brexit: UK could demand £9bn back from EU instead of paying divorce bill

Brexit negotiators are confident they can dramatically reduce the size of any bill for leaving the EU, according to legal documents circulated in the Department for Exiting the European Union.

It has previously been suggested that the UK might have to pay around £50bn to the EU after Article 50 was triggered, to plug the deficit in its budget the departure will cause.

The document was drawn up by Martin Howe QC, a founding member of  Lawyers for Britain, a group of lawyers who campaigned for Britain to leave the EU in last year’s referendum.

It advises that the demand for payments into the European budget after Britain has left the EU is “wholly without merit in law”, and that it is “hard to see any credible basis upon which the UK could be said to be obliged” to pay for the deficit.

Mr Howe believes that a key point of leverage is the UK’s funds in the European Investment Bank (EIB). The UK has a 16 per cent share of the €63.3bn capital of the bank, amounting to €10.1bn (£8.8bn).

The guidance concludes: “Overall the UK should be entitled on exit to a net payment in its favour, corresponding to the value of its capital invested in the EIB.”

Theresa May is expected to formally trigger Article 50 this week, after the bill paving the way for Britain’s departure is due to be debated on Monday.