BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Britain should bear the costs of the transfer of the European Union’s London-based banking agency after it leaves the bloc, the European Parliament’s committee on financial affairs said on Tuesday, reigniting the spat over the Brexit bill.
The mandate of the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, says that Britain should “fully cover” the costs of relocating EU agencies from its territory but it is unclear whether Barnier will insist on this issue, as he discusses much larger financial commitments with his British counterpart.
The costs of transferring the European Banking Authority (EBA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) from London to the EU remain unclear but are seen as a minor fraction of an overall bill that could amount to around 60 billion euros (£55.05 billion), mostly from Britain’s existing commitments to the EU budget until 2020.
Negotiators have not agreed a common method to cover the Brexit bill and Britain has never said it would pay the transfer costs of London-based agencies.
But EU lawmakers of the influential committee on economic and financial affairs voted in favour of an opinion reiterating that Britain should pay the costs of the transfer.
“Without Brexit there would not be any need to relocate EBA and hence the UK has to settle the bill,” one of the vice-presidents of the committee, German conservative Markus Ferber, said on Tuesday.
The opinion will feed the debate on next year’s EU budget, on which the EU Parliament is set to adopt a formal position in October before entering into talks with member states on the final figures.
The economic committee focussed on EBA because it falls under its competence. The budgetary committee of the parliament takes the lead in preparing the budget talks.
The economic affairs’ committee said the EU should also consider making available the necessary financial resources if it eventually agreed to pay the transfer bill.
The opinion of the economic committee is not binding, but shows that Brexit costs are already influencing the drafting of EU annual budgets, as EU agencies prepare to move well before Britain’s formal departure set for April 2019.
($1 = 0.8415 euros)
Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; Editing by Gareth Jones