In 2016, the funds paid to Brussels by Britain were about half what "Leave" campaign advocates claimed. EU contributions amounted to only 1.2 percent of UK government spending.
According to data published by Britain's National Office for Statistics on Tuesday, the UK's contributions to the European Union were at a four-year low of 9.4 billion pounds (€10.7 billion, $12.4 billion) in 2016. This means that the UK paid only half the amount Brexit advocates claimed in the run-up to the country's referendum on leaving or staying in the bloc.
Proponents of the campaign to leave the European Union, like Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, made much of the number 350 million pounds – the amount they claimed that Britain paid to the EU each week, and thus the amount that would be saved if the country left the bloc.
However, the Leave campaigners often neglected to mention a 1984 rebate deal that saw the actual number come out much lower, at only about 181 million pounds, or just 1.2 percent of government spending. Figures like Johnson also left out the funds that Britain received from the EU for infrastructure and development projects, including money for universities and other key institutions.
Embattled PM presses forward
Prime Minister Theresa May is trying to speed up divorce talks with Brussels. Only 17 months remain until Britain has to leave the bloc, and little progress has been made on breaking down 40 years of policy integration or creating a road map for the future, even on key issues like trade.
"The preparatory work has seen a significant acceleration in recent months. Departments are preparing detailed delivery plans for each of the around 300 programs under way across government," a government spokesman said on Tuesday, adding that the government will add some 3,000 new jobs in the coming months and years in order to deal with the changes.
The Brexit minister David Davis briefed the Cabinet on Tuesday and in a lengthy presentation said plans had been drawn up for both a deal and no-deal scenario with the EU. Almost 3,000 new posts have been created for Brexit and Britain's tax and customs authority will add a further 3,000-5,000 workers next year. Some Revenue and Customs officials are reported to have briefed ministers it will take five years to get Britain’s ports ready for Brexit.
Before leaving the EU, however, May's government faces the uphill battle of gathering parliamentary support for the massive severing of political, financial and legal ties known as the EU Withdrawal Bill, against which lawmakers have tabled hundreds of amendments.
The Bank of England expects Britain to lose up to 75,000 financial services jobs in the years after it ends its EU membership, according to media reports on Tuesday. A million people are currently employed in the sector.
Once Britain leaves it is expected to be harder to sell services across Europe. Some banks have already started to move staff from the UK or expand their operations elsewhere.
Other forecasts for job losses have ranged from about 30,000 jobs by the Brussels-based Bruegel research group in February to 232,000 by London Stock Exchange chief executive Xavier Rolet in January.
Andrew Bailey, chief executive of Britain's Financial Conduct Authority, told lawmakers on Tuesday that unless there was a deal between the UK and EU soon, then companies would start taking decisions: "The end of this year, beginning of next year is the point at which these things start happening," he said.
es/jm (AP, Reuters)