Cabinet sources have since disputed such claims, but with the EU preparing to slap the UK with a demand for anywhere between £50 billion and £90 billion Number 10 faces a battle to hold onto your cash.
Brexiteers are already circling the wagons around their position, which is that any such figure is “extortionate” and should be rejected by British negotiators outright.
Ukip’s home affairs spokeswoman, Jane Collins, said the proposed figure is ridiculous and coming after years of austerity begs the question: “Since when do we have £36 billion lying idle?
She argued: “We have a soaring national debt which costs us billions each year to finance, a military which urgently needs investment and people unable to train as nurses and paramedics because they cannot afford it.”
The party’s newest MEP, Jonathan Bullock, told express.co.uk Britain should be prepared to pay up to a billion pounds to tie up loose ends, but should not part with a penny more.
He said there was “no constitutional basis” for the EU demands and added: “There shouldn’t be anything that costs over a billion, nothing that should be in terms of those mega billions that they are asking for which is fanciful.”
His remarks were echoed by the Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who reacted to the supposed £36 billion payout by tweeting: “There is no logic to this figure, legally we owe nothing.”
Richard Tice, who is head of the cross-party Leave Means Leave campaign group, added: “With the EU Brexit negotiations, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Speculation about a ‘divorce bill’ is particularly unhelpful.”
But what could cash-strapped Britain buy with the £36 billion if it chooses to refuse the EU’s demands? Here express.co.uk looks at some of the Government’s options. All staff numbers are based on one year’s average salary.
Britain’s public services are widely considered to be under huge strain following seven years of punishing austerity. Budgets have been cut, with sometimes tragic consequences, and £36 billion would go a long way to plugging staffing gaps.
Police constables: 1,857,297
Trainee firefighters: 1,635,100
In the same vein, defence also took a pummelling during the David Cameron and George Osborne during the austerity years. Military chiefs have warned troop numbers are dangerously low and flagship projects have been hit by embarrassing delays and overspending.
Eurofighter typhoon fighter jets: 336
Type 45 frigates: 33
Challenger II tanks: 8,536
The financial plight of the NHS has become a major political sparring point between the Conservatives and Labour. The Brexit bill cash could bankroll new drugs and operations the service is currently struggling to provide.
IVF cycles: 7,200,000
Kadcyla breast cancer treatments: 400,000
Hip operations: 6,000,000
Major hospitals: 66
Britain’s schools are also in crisis, with begging letters from headteachers asking parents for donations recently hitting the headlines. Libraries have also been closing at an alarming rate amid huge funding cuts.
New secondary schools: 1,440
Trainee teachers: 1,602,350
Lifetime of text books per pupil: 57,142,857
Finally, the transfer of Brazilian superstar Neymar from Barcelon to Paris Saint-Germain for a world record £198 million fee recently hit the headlines. But his worth is chicken feed compared to what the EU is asking for.
Olympic Stadiums: 67
3G football pitches: 72,000
August 7th, 2017: Express