Felicity Lawrence, the Guardian's Special Correspondent, reports that the UK government could be liable for compensation payments worth a total of £55 billion if unsuccessful in its defence against a series of group litigations brought by transnational corporations. 

The point of contention is whether HMRC discriminated unlawfully against the corporations by processing transactions from foreign businesses differently to transactions from UK-registered companies. The litigations are said to exploit a discrepancy between UK tax law and that of the European community which gives corporations the right not to be discriminated against by nationality. The first case of this kind was successfully brought by British American Tobacco in 2016, earning the conglomerate a £1 billion payout. 

Given that £55 billion would amount to almost half of the NHS annual budget, it begs the question, how would the UK afford such a payment? And what would happen if HMRC simply refused to cough up?