BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Britain must honour the financial commitments it has made to the European Union budget just like friends buying rounds of drinks in a bar should not leave before paying, the spokesman for the European Commission Margaritis Schinas said on Tuesday.
Britain is to formally ask in March to the leave the European Union of 28 countries, starting a two-year negotiation on the terms of the divorce, which will include London's financial commitments to the EU made in the past.
"During the time of its membership the United Kingdom has taken and probably will take financial commitments and they should be honoured in full," Schinas said.
"This will be an essential element of the negotiations on the orderly separation. As all commitments are taken jointly, if they are not paid by the UK, they other 27 member states will have to foot the bill," he said.
"It is like going to a pub with 27 friends. You order a round of beer, but then you cannot leave while the party continues. You still need to pay for the round you ordered," he said.
EU officials expect talks on how much and for how long Britain will have to pay the EU to meet its obligations to be among the most controversial in the whole process. The figure mentioned informally by EU officials is up to 60 billion euros ($64 billion).
($1 = 0.9376 euros)
Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; editing by Philip Blenkinsop