Britain may settle Brexit divorce bill ahead of agreeing trade deal

Suella Braverman said MPs would be asked to vote on the Brexit deal before the terms of the future relationship were set out in a legal text

BRITAIN'S £39 billion Brexit divorce bill could be signed off by Westminster without any formal legal commitments on a future trade deal with the European Union, MPs were told.

Brexit minister Suella Braverman yesterday acknowledged there was currently no explicit condition in the withdrawal agreement between the UK and EU but both sides had promised to act in "good faith".

And she said MPs would be asked to vote on the Brexit deal – including the divorce bill – before the terms of the future relationship were set out in a legal text.

But she told the Commons Brexit committee: "The Prime Minister has made very clear that the offer on the financial settlement is made as part of a broader package relating (to), and in the spirit of our future partnership.

"So the two will be connected when we vote in October."

The financial settlement is expected to cost the taxpayer £35-£39 billion to cover Britain's outstanding commitments and liabilities.

Labour's Pat McFadden asked Mrs Braverman whether MPs would have to vote on the financial settlement before there was a legal treaty on the future relationship with the EU.

After the minister confirmed that Westminster would vote on the divorce bill ahead of the framework on the future relationship, Mr McFadden asked whether the government would seek to insert conditions into the phase one withdrawal agreement.

Mrs Braverman said that as drafted it did not contain conditions on the divorce bill but "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed" and "there is agreed a duty of good faith".

"The duty of good faith should not be ignored in this context, it is more than just words and it does apply to the attitude and the way in which an agreement on the future framework will be struck," she said.

She added that if there was a change in circumstances the UK wanted to stop making payments to Brussels that would require renegotiating the deal.

Mr McFadden said the minister's response was an "illustration of the complete chaos in government over Brexit".

But Downing Street insisted that Westminster will vote on the withdrawal deal along with "the terms of our future relationship".

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We have been absolutely clear that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

Meanwhile, a delegation from the European Committee of the Regions visited Newry yesterday as part of an Irish fact-finding tour.

The delegation was led by committee president Karl-Heinz Lambertz.

Members met representatives from Newry, Mourne and Down council to discuss the potential impact of Brexit on EU regional and local authorities.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel is due to visit the border region today with the Republic's Business Minister Heather Humphreys.

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