The European Commission has repeated that there will be an "exit bill" for the U.K. before it leaves the European Union – something that the U.K. government has refused multiple times. The issue is sparking a lot of controversy just as the negotiations are about to kick off.
President Jean-Claude Juncker of the European Commission told the BBC on Friday that the U.K. "cannot pretend that it was never a member of the union".
"The British government and parliament took on certain commitments as EU members and they must be honoured. This isn't a punishment or sanctions against the UK," Juncker said.
The bill, which has been calculated by EU officials and it includes the UK's share of debts, pensions and unpaid bills, is estimated to be about 60 billion euros ($64.79 billion).
On Thursday, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, told lawmakers that the U.K. should not see this bill as a "punishment" for leaving the EU.
"When a country leaves the union, there is no punishment. There is no price to pay to leave, but we must settle the accounts. No more, no less. We will not ask the British to pay a single euro for something they have not agreed to as a member." Michel Barnier, the EU's negotiator said.
However, London is unwilling to accept a high cost to its divorce from the EU. All the main ministers in the British cabinet dismiss the idea of making such a large payment.
U.K. Finance Minister Philip Hammond has said he does not recognize the numbers used by the EU and the trade secretary, Liam Fox, said the bill was "absurd."
The U.K. government is set to start the process of leaving the EU next Wednesday. The EU wants the first negotiating points to be on citizens' rights and the Irish border as well as the exit bill.