UK de­nies agree­ing to pay EU exit bill

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

LON­DON — The Bri­tish govern­ment has de­nied that it has agreed on the amount of its European Union exit bill, af­ter a re­port emerged that it plans of­fer the bloc 36 bil­lion pounds ($47 bil­lion).

Bri­tain’s out­stand­ing tab to set­tle com­mit­ments it made as an EU mem­ber is one of the big­gest is­sues con­fronting the di­vorce talks. The EU said it won’t dis­cuss fu­ture trade re­la­tions with the United King­dom un­til there is progress on the bill and other key is­sues.

The EU has not put an of­fi­cial num­ber on the size of the bill, but es­ti­mates have ranged as high as 100 bil­lion eu­ros.

Bri­tain voted in a ref­er­en­dum last year to quit the 28-na­tion bloc and is due to leave in March 2019.

EU bud­get Com­mis­sioner Guen­ther Oet­tinger told Ger­many’s Bild news­pa­per in com­ments pub­lished on Mon­day that the United King­dom would re­main bound by some pre­vi­ous com­mit­ments to long-term projects af­ter Brexit and “will there­fore have to trans­fer funds to Brussels at least un­til 2020”.

The size of the bill is a hot po­lit­i­cal is­sue in Bri­tain, with some anti-EU politi­cians in­sist­ing the coun­try should pay noth­ing at all.

The Sun­day Tele­graph re­ported that Bri­tish of­fi­cials have de­cided to of­fer 36 bil­lion pounds, or 40 bil­lion eu­ros, in a bid to move talks on to the key is­sue of trade. But Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s spokesman, James Slack, said “I don’t rec­og­nize” the fig­ure.

‘Fair set­tle­ment’

He added that Bri­tain was pre­pared to pay a “fair set­tle­ment” of its obli­ga­tions.

“The prime min­is­ter made clear in the let­ter trig­ger­ing Ar­ti­cle 50 (the EU exit process) that the UK and the EU need to dis­cuss a fair set­tle­ment of both our rights and obliga- tions as an EU mem­ber state.”

Oet­tinger said in the long term, Bri­tain’s with­drawal will mean a loss of about 10 to 12 bil­lion eu­ros ($11.8-14 bil­lion) per year to the EU bud­get, which will be made up through a com­bi­na­tion of cuts and higher pay­ments from other mem­bers.

He es­ti­mated that Ger­many would face an “ad­di­tional sin­gle-digit bil­lion” in­crease.

Bri­tain has yet to set out what kind of tran­si­tional deal it is seek­ing, mak­ing es­ti­mates of the fi­nal bill dif­fi­cult to cal­cu­late.

Some eu­roskep­tics within the rul­ing party ar­gue Bri­tain should not have to pay any­thing at all, and any set­tle­ment per­ceived to be gen­er­ous to Brussels could prompt re­volt within the Con­ser­va­tive ranks.

The UK and the EU need to dis­cuss a fair set­tle­ment of both our rights and obli­ga­tions as an EU mem­ber state.” James Slack, Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s spokesman

ETROS GIANNAKOURIS / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Au­gust full moon rises above the 5th Cen­tury BC Tem­ple of Po­sei­don near Athens on Mon­day. More than a hun­dred of Greece’s an­cient sites and mu­se­ums kept open un­til late Mon­day to al­low vis­i­tors to en­joy the full moon, which is ac­com­pa­nied by a par­tial lu­nar eclipse.

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