Theresa May is set to demand a share of the EU’s £130billion assets in the looming Brexit divorce talks.
Whitehall is preparing to counter a ‘liabilities’ bill from Brussels that could be as high as £50billion with a list of assets that should be split.
The figures have emerged with just weeks to go until the PM formally fires the starting gun on Brexit negotiations.
Tensions have been rising as both sides draw battle lines ahead of the discussions.
Bruegel, an independent Brussels think tank, has used the EU’s annual accounts to put the scale of its assets at 152.5 billion euros – around £130billion.
Cash, property and other financial assets accounts for some 41 billion euros, while 56 billion euros more is owed to the EU folllowing loans.
Some 45.2 billion euros more comes from funds that have been committed but are yet to be allocated.
Eurosceptic Tories have been urging the government to use the argument over assets in the Brexit negotiations – with some even suggesting that the UK could charge the EU rent for its HQ buildings in Brussels.
Mrs May signalled in the Commons recently that the potential for splitting assets was being considered.
Britain is the EU’s second largest net contributor, and has been paying into budgets for four decades – giving us more of a claim that members who have joined later.
The think-tank stressed the difficulty of calculating how the assets should break down, but estimated that Britain could be entitled to more than 20 billion euros.
Bitter arguments are also expected over the size of the liabilities Britain needs to meet.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has suggested they could be as large as 60 billion euros.
Pensions for EU civil servants could be a particular bone of contention because low interest rates over recent years have inflated the theoretical costs. The UK may well argue that this is a short term effect.
European leaders are insisting the divorce settlement must be agreed before any future trade relationship can start being negotiated.