Britain will meet obligations built up as EU member, says Grayling

Britain will "meet our obligations" as it leaves the European Union and pay for financial commitments made as a member, a Cabinet minister said amid suggestions that a "divorce bill" of much as £50 billion has been agreed.

Brexit-backing Transport Secretary Chris Grayling refused to comment on "speculation" about the final figure but acknowledged "the price" the UK built up as a member.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. Pic: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Officials close to the negotiations were reported as saying there was broad agreement on a framework for the UK to settle liabilities expected to total around 45-55 billion euros (£40-£49 billion).

If confirmed, the move could clear the way for Prime Minister Theresa May to finally achieve her goal of moving Brexit negotiations on to the issue of trade.

However, differences with Dublin over the status of the border in Ireland could still block progress at the European Council summit on December 14-15.

Mr Grayling told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We've been very clear that we will meet our obligations as a member of the European Union as we leave.

"We don't want to walk away on bad terms, we don't want to walk away from obligations that we built up during our membership.

"Our goal is to be good friends and good neighbours with the European Union and to trade freely with the European Union, to carry on as friends."

He added: "The price is meeting the obligations that we built up, no more, no less than that.

"I don't think people in this country would expect us to just walk away from things we've already said we'd pay for."

Mr Grayling reiterated the Government's insistence that it does not want to see a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and claimed a "sensible" trade deal with the EU would make the issue irrelevant.

"We have already said we absolutely do not want to return to a hard border, we see no reason to do so, we've put forward proposals as to how that can be avoided," he said.

"But, of course, I hope that we'll end up with a sensible free trade agreement which means that becomes an irrelevant discussion.

"I don't see any benefit at all to the United Kingdom or European Union to having barriers to trade."

Asked if he would rule out a hard border, he said: "I think we've already done that, we've said that there are simple ways to make sure that we do not have to have border posts in the way that were (there) in the past.

"(Brexit Secretary) David Davis put forward those proposals very early on and we think that there's the basis there for a sensible agreement that means there is no hard border."


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