Since the decision to leave the EU was made about 18 months ago, discussions have crawled along at a glacial pace. There has been a great deal of posturing and flexing of political muscle in that time but not a great deal of solid decision making. One decision that has been made is that the UK will be leaving the EU in March 2019. UK Prime Minister Theresa May has been back and forth to Brussels to try and strike the best deal for the UK's imminent exit but the powers that be in Europe have stood firm, France and Germany, in particular, have been accused of joining forces to stall any forward movement.

The cost of Brexit

In order to secure a successful exit from the EU and retain free trade agreements Mrs May initially offered £20 billion in a bid to break the ongoing deadlock. This has been turned down and it transpires that the actual sum being offered is going to be double that at around £40 billion with the proviso that the UK maintains free trade agreements.

Conservative MPs Nigel Evans and Rob Halfon have said in interviews with the BBC that "the public will 'go bananas'" if we are forced to pay out £40 billion. And rightly so. As Mr Halfon says he " cannot believe the public would accept such a huge amount when we need money for our schools, our hospital, our housing." It is indeed unthinkable that when we, as a nation, have endured many years of austerity, an NHS that is underfunded, schools that are on their knees and suddenly the government magically discovers £40 billion in divorce fees to leave the EU.

The challenge to the PM's leadership

While it may be true that we will need to find extra funds to ease the wheels of Brexit, PM Theresa May knows that cabinet members who backed Brexit, like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove will not forgive her for 'caving in' to Brussels.

During a meeting of the Brexit 'War Cabinet,' Mrs May faced a tough time from MPs who have warned that we cannot afford to "play Santa" to the EU.

Ahead of a meeting with Donald Tusk, the PM has said that she wants a deal that's good for the UK as that will be good for the EU.

Why do we owe money?

The reason for the expensive divorce bill is because EU Chief negotiator Michel Barnier has pointed out that the UK made financial commitments that have to be settled before withdrawing.

There are remaining issues such as pensions for EU staff and what will happen to building projects, in Spain for example, where funding was agreed by all EU countries including the UK but won't begin until after the UK has left.

It would appear, therefore, that the decision to leave the EU that was democratically offered to the UK 18 months ago will have further reaching and more serious implications than any of us could have imagined. And if the sums being discussed are anything to go by then we should prepare for a few more years of austerity.