This morning, the Prime Minister repeated his inaccurate claim that extending the date of Brexit beyond 31 October would cost “£1 billion a month”.
This is not true. The Prime Minister says he wants to leave on 31 October with a deal. If he does, the UK will be in a transition period to the end of December 2020, during which it will pay into the EU budget anyway.
So extending the date of Brexit into 2020 won’t, by itself, cost us any more in budget contributions than leaving with a deal in October this year would. Those payments just get taken off the final “divorce bill” when we leave.
The government has given no indication that it plans to renegotiate either the financial settlement part of the deal—the divorce bill—or the transition period in the month remaining. That situation hasn’t changed since we first fact checked this a month ago.
And if you’re not planning to renegotiate the divorce bill or the transition, then the only way you can claim extending would cost us £1 billion more is if you’re comparing it to leaving with no deal, and refusing to pay the divorce bill.
You can see evidence that a short extension wouldn’t cost us more from the fact this has already happened once. Because the UK has stayed a full EU member longer than expected, we have paid budget contributions since 29 March. But all that means is that the divorce bill has gone down by the same amount: the original divorce bill was around £39 billion in March, but this has now gone down to £33 billion. It does not in itself make any difference to how much we pay.
If the UK had a deal but extended the transition to 2021 or 2022 (which is possible under the current agreement if both sides agree, but is not something the Prime Minister has said he wants to do), then the UK would pay more, as it would continue contributing to the EU budget for those extra years. But we don’t know how much that would be, as the EU hasn’t yet set its budget for then.
Mr Johnson’s government has publicly said it is committed to getting a deal with the EU, and hasn’t said it wants to renegotiate the divorce bill or the transition. That’s what makes this claim wrong.
If the government publicly said its policy was to go for no deal, then it could argue that it would try to avoid paying the divorce bill. If they then succeeded in avoiding that bill, this claim might be in the right ballpark (although still not quite right, as BBC Reality Check have pointed out).
But as it stands, the Prime Minister asserted two contradictory things in the same interview. You can say your plan is to leave with a deal, or you can say an extension will cost £1 billion a month, but you can't say both.
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The longer claims like these go unchecked, the more they are repeated and believed. It can put people’s health at serious risk, when our services are already under pressure.
Today, you have the opportunity to help save lives. Good information about Covid-19 could be the difference between someone taking the right precautions to protect themselves and their families, or not. Could you help protect us all from false and harmful information today?