Theresa May spent almost £1,000 on delivery of Brexit letter

Anushka Asthana Political editor
Theresa May signing the article 50 letter that was taken by civil servants to Brussels. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/PA

Theresa May’s decision to have Britain’s article 50 notification delivered to the EU by hand cost taxpayers almost £1,000, figures have revealed.

The letter, which fired the starting gun on a two-year process of leaving the union, was taken from Downing Street to Brussels where Sir Tim Barrow gave it to the EU council president, Donald Tusk, on 29 March last year.

According to a document released by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office under freedom of information rules, two civil servants travelled on Eurostar to transport the handover note. Their two business premier class return tickets, including a small booking and change fee, cost at total of £985.50.

The terms of article 50 of the EU treaties state that a country wishing to leave the EU is required to “notify the European council of its intention”, which could have been done by email.

But May signed the letter in front of cameras in Downing Street before it was taken by hand in order to mark the historic nature of the occasion.

The government said the cost was limited to the two train tickets: “There were no other quantifiable costs associated with their travel,” officials said, in the FOI response, adding that meals were provided on the train and the two civil servants stayed overnight at an official residence.

“The letter was then delivered to the president of the European council by Sir Tim Barrow as part of his duties as UK permanent representative to the European Union at no additional cost.”

Business premier is the most expensive passenger ticket offered on regular Eurostar services, with standard tickets typically costing £89-£159 each way.

The company’s website says the price includes “hot meals designed by Raymond Blanc, served with champagne”, more spacious seats and use of an exclusive lounge, a taxi-booking service and the option of changes and cancellation free of charge. The ticket allows travellers to arrive at the gate 10 minutes before departure.