There Is No Brexit Divorce Bill, Whatever Philip Hammond Says

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We’re seeing that tired old trope being trotted out again. If we don’t agree whatever with the EU then we’ll have to pay the Brexit divorce bill. There is no divorce bill. There’s some payment – an interesting one to calculate to be sure – that is due whether we leave or stay. Given that we’ve got to pay it either way it’s not something that influences that decision to leave or not.

Consider that idea of it being a divorce bill. Maintain the household analogy. Such a divorce bill would be the extra costs of divorcing of course. Perhaps the costs of now running two households. Or the lawyers’ fees for getting rid of the Old Boy. We wouldn’t though consider the cost of the electricity bill already run up to be a cost of the divorce. Or, perhaps more accurately here, the future lease payments on the cars. Those are payments which must be made whether there is a divorce or not. A decision was made in the past to commit to making those payments.

Shrug, they’ve got to be paid whether the couple decide to continue to live in the same house, maintain their legal relationship or share bodily fluids. Hey, they signed the contract to pay for the cars for 3 years. Cough up. And that those leases must be paid for has nothing at all to do with whether they should divorce or not.

That’s what that Brexit bill is:

Britain will face £36 billion Brexit bill if it fails to agree a trade deal with EU, Chancellor warns MPs

Hmm.

Britain will still have to pay the EU up to £36 billion if it fails to agree a trade deal, Philip Hammond has claimed, as Brussels said no deal is now “more likely than ever”.

The Chancellor told Cabinet ministers the UK would be unlikely to win any legal battle to withhold large chunks of the Brexit bill, despite previous Government promises that the payment was conditional on a deal.

Mr Hammond’s comments angered Eurosceptics, who described his stance as “mystifying”. However, sources close to the Chancellor insisted he was as frustrated as his colleagues with the EU’s intransigence, and was merely setting out legal advice the Treasury had been given.

We’ve got to pay the bill if there’s a deal. We’ve got to pay the bill if there isn’t a deal. Because the bill isn’t about the divorce in the first place:

The correct arrangement being that we’ve been a member of a club for some decades now. We have a certain intertwining of finances to pay for certain things, some scientific cooperation, the cash stuffed into the maws of farmers and so on. There are budgets, a cycle for deciding upon them. We’re leaving before the end of that current cycle and we have previously promised that we’ll pay up to the end of that planned period. Sure, we owe some money simply because we’ve previously said we’ll pay it.

We’re civilised people, we don’t welsh on our debts, that’s that then. There is, other than just not annoying the foreigners, no connection at all between this discharge of our promises and whatever a future trade deal is. Even the European Union itself has made this point – the bill is the bill whatever subsequently happens.

In the jargon the bill is a sunk cost and thus should have no influence upon any decision about the future.

It’s a standard part of the Remoaner rhetorical strategy to tell us all that there’s some vast bill to be paid for leaving the European Union. This is not so, so much not so that the claim is nonsense. There is indeed some money that we’re going to have to pay on the way out the door. But we’re going to have to pay it whether or not we pass through that portal. Thus we cannot say the bill is the result nor even the consequence of leaving.

We’d have to pay up if we stayed. We’ll have to pay up if we leave. Whatever our relationship with the EU post-Brexit, frozen hatred, friends with benefits or not bothering to leave at all. It’s not a divorce bill therefore, is it?

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