Boris Johnson repeats his false claim that extending Brexit costs £1 billion a month

Published: 29th Oct 2019

In brief

Claim

A three month extension to Brexit will cost £1 billion a month.

Conclusion

No it won’t. The UK would still pay that amount if it left in October under Boris Johnson’s deal.

“They made it inevitable that the people of this country would be retained in the EU against their will for at least another three months, at a cost of another £1 billion a month.” 

Boris Johnson, 28 October 2019

“It is a week since this parliament voted, yet again, to force Brussels to keep this country in the European Union for at least another three months, at a cost of £1 billion a month.”

Boris Johnson, 29 October 2019

In the House of Commons this week, Boris Johnson has twice repeated his claim that extending the date of Brexit for three months would cost £1 billion a month.

This is false, as we have said repeatedly. A three month extension costs the UK the same amount in EU budget payments as leaving under Boris Johnson’s own deal on 31 October would have.

Mr Johnson should correct his untrue statements to the House.

Why it’s wrong

The claim is based on the amount that the UK pays into the EU budget. Those payments are worth roughly £1 billion a month, although this doesn’t take into account some money that the UK gets back from the EU, as BBC Reality Check has pointed out

But under Boris Johnson’s proposed deal, the UK will pay these budget contributions even after we’ve left the EU, until the end of December 2020. This is part of the financial settlement (better known as the “divorce bill”).

This is the same situation as under Theresa May’s deal—Boris Johnson’s government did not renegotiate the financial settlement.

That means the budget payments made during a Brexit extension to January 2020 simply have the effect of reducing the total divorce bill upon the UK’s departure. This has already happened before: the divorce bill was estimated at around £39 billion in March 2019, but is now down to around £33 billion as a result of extending the Brexit date by six months.

There is a separate decision that the government will need to make before 1 July 2020, about whether the UK wants to extend the transition period that follows Brexit beyond its current end date of December 2020. The dates of this transition period have not changed from Theresa May’s deal to Boris Johnson’s deal.

If the government does decide to extend that period, and the EU agrees to the extension, that would mean that the UK would need to pay into the EU budget for a longer period. At this point the UK and EU would have to negotiate what level of budget contribution the UK would make during the extended transition.

The Ministerial Code, which governs the behaviour of ministers—and which the Prime Minister himself is in charge of enforcing—says that it is “of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.” The Prime Minister should uphold these principles and correct his untrue statements in the House of Commons.

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