There is a lot of talk about another article 50 extension in the Brexit issue. I've seen various people on both sides of the Brexit issue characterising the negotiations as a waste of time. For example, Denis de Bernardy wrote in a comment:

As a fellow continental European who is following the debate, I sincerely wish that UK politicians and the UK public would spend a lot more time living out of their bubble. The real question is not and never has been whether the PM will or will not request an extension. Rather, it is whether EU leaders will accept to extend art 50. Given how the UK has been wasting their time in the past 3 years, election or not and whether the PM asks for an extension or not, UK MPs likely will be choosing between no deal and May's deal at the last hour. It is utterly disheartening to watch UK politics.

The part about wasting time (in the comment above) and Brexit taking up time which should be spent on other issues (things to that effect were mentioned repeatedly in this week's debates in the House of Commons, and it's also been mentioned with respect to EU summits which could have been devoted to other issues).

With that in mind, I'm wondering if the EU has published material on how much the Brexit negotiations cost the EU in terms of money, manpower or time. I know Brexit negotiations have an impact in different way, including an impact on the economy. To limit the scope of this question, I'm merely interested in resources devoted to the negotiations with the UK.

  • Do you mean cost purely to the European parliament, or to the economies of all of the EU countries?
    – bobsburner
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 10:47
  • @bobsburner I think both would be interesting if you can explain what's included and what's not.
    – JJJ
    Commented Oct 7, 2019 at 11:45

2 Answers 2


Barnier's TF50 team has a dozen people. His annual activity report for 2018 references the Secretary General's report for the budget details, but the latter doesn't seem to break down TF50's activities specifically. (Which is sensible, since they're part of the Commission.)

That said, the team is quite senior so it's reasonable to expect it to fall firmly in the mid to upper part of the EC's salary charts. Summing the team's salary figures, throwing in some office space and office supplies on top, and counting some travel budget so they can go to London or EU capitals when needed, you probably end up with a figure on the order of a few hundred thousand Euros per month. Certainly at least one; I'd wager not many.

That said, I've a slight quibble with the question because the above number wouldn't capture the full cost anyway.

A big item that it doesn't capture is the resources that went into preparing for a No Deal Brexit.

You'd then need to factor in the dozens of people working on the topic in the EU27 member states, plus the time that European and European State leaders waste planning and discussing the topic, to say nothing of external advisors. Factor those in, and Brexit is likely costing the EU a few millions each month.

If you also factor in the gazillions of people who spend time or money thinking, campaigning, or lobbying on the topic, then the sum is even higher.

Lastly, there is a cost that should be on every European's mind: the longer this drags on, the more damage it does to the EU itself (goodwill from EU citizens, uncertainty for businesses, etc.). And keeping the UK in after Oct 31 will open the door for a disgruntled UK PM to sabotage EU budget negotiations and EC commission picks, and for Brexit Party MEPs to further demean the EP. With these risks in mind, I would not be the slightest bit surprised if a few EU heads of states (with Macron in their lead) block extending article 50 beyond Oct 31.

  • That's still not that much, the Dutch Rekenkamer estimates no-deal to cost the Netherlands alone 2.3 billion euro for the 2018-2023 period. Anyway, I think it's interesting to have an idea about the numbers.
    – JJJ
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 8:28
  • 1
    Not that I disagree with your conclusions but the answer to "Has the EU published.." shouldn't be "My opinion/guess is..." Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 9:32
  • Do they also travel between Strasbourg and Brussels ? ;-p
    – user19831
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 11:39
  • @Orangesandlemons: Doubtful. MEPs almost always sit in Brussels nowadays. They avoid Strasbourg so much that France lobbied to insert a clause in an EU treaty to force them to sit there from time to time. Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 11:43
  • @LioElbammalf: per the original answer, I intended to try to locate the exact figures. I found some data, but nothing specific that breaks down TF50's budget. Which isn't very surprising IMO, given that they're part of the EC team. Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 11:44

The problem is that you don't specify the baseline to compare to. When comparing to the cost of separated markets, the extension costs are likely more than offset by the economic advantages for both UK and the rest of the EU, not because of delaying the transition costs but because of the economic advantage of the common market while it still exists.

In addition, the extensions provide a smoother transition for the idiotic "Brexit first, treaties later" scenario that is still comparatively likely as companies continue to pull out to their respective side of the channel.

The real losers of the ongoing extension are the elected EU parliament members slated to supplant UK members once the UK leaves. They have no job, no income, no quarters and cannot sensibly prepare for a different career.

  • 1
    It's true that a common market has lower costs, because you don't need so many people in Customs. But the problem is that quite a few countries have already grown their Customs department in anticipation of Brexit. It might not have happened yet, but the new employees already need to be paid. I think the Netherlands alone pays 2-3M a monthfor that.
    – MSalters
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 11:51

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