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Brexit divorce bill: Britain prepares to pay more to EU as negotiations falter

British Prime Minister Theresa May could bulk up the amount that Britain pays as it leaves the EU, in a bid to move talks on to trade. But senior leave campaigners have attached a condition to the money.

Britain's Brexit bill offer to the EU is set to swell, national media reports, as senior lawmakers attempt to kick-start stalled negotiations with the European Union.

No new figure has been confirmed on the size of the so-called divorce bill, which in recent weeks has become a major source of contention in Brexit talks, but there is a growing acceptance among Conservative Party members to increase it.

Online newspapers iNews reported on Tuesday that "May will offer 40 billion pounds to get Brexit moving."

Read moreUK contributions to EU half the amount claimed by pro-Brexit camp

The pro-Brexit Daily Telegraph newspaper ran a front-page splash on Tuesday that read "Johnson and Gove back a bigger Brexit divorce bill offer."

Cabinet ministers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are two of the most senior faces of Brexit. They command a large following within their deeply-divided party.

Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly signaled her willingness to pay more to the EU than initially suggested. But she has avoided publicly discussing figures out of fear that hardline elements within the party will not tolerate a large payout.

Agreeing on a figure

Britain has previously offered about 20 billion pounds (€22.6 billion, $26.5 billion) for previously-agreed funding commitments to Brussels, but the EU wants at least 60 billion pounds. The sum of what Britain owes varies widely based on what commitments are included in the calculation.

A government source confirmed to AFP that cabinet ministers had agreed at a meeting on Monday evening to increase the size of the divorce bill — on the condition that it would be part of a final deal on leaving the EU.

But Theresa May's office again refused to comment on numbers.

"It remains our position that nothing's agreed until everything's agreed in negotiations with the EU," a source from May's office said on Monday night.

"As the Prime Minister said this morning, the UK and the EU should step forward together."

The leaders of the remaining 27 EU nations are due to vote at a summit in mid-December on whether divorce terms have progressed sufficiently to move on to future relations and trade.

Key to this vote are three unresolved issues: the status of expatriate citizens; the future border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland; and the size of the divorce settlement.

Read moreUK PM Theresa May calls for 'urgency' in Brexit talks

Economic pressure

Businesses in the UK and Europe are applying pressure on both negotiating partners to quickly come to a conclusion.

Separately, Britain's Brexit minister, David Davis, said in a speech in London on Tuesday that the country was preparing for crashing out of talks without a deal.

"Reaching a deal with the European Union is not only far and away the most likely outcome, it's also the best outcome for our country," Davis said.

"I don't think it would be in the interest for either side for there to be no deal. But as a responsible government it is right that we make every plan for every eventuality."

During a speech in Florence in September Theresa May promised that no European Union member state would have to pay more because of Brexit.

Last week, at a summit on social reform in Sweden, May repeated her pledge to "honor commitments."

an/kms (AFP, AP, Reuters)