While there is no de­sire to pun­ish Bri­tain, EU says must de­ter others from fol­low­ing suit

New Straits Times - - Business -

THE United King­dom will have to pay a bill of about £50 bil­lion (RM274.4 bil­lion) when it leaves the Euro­pean Union, Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent JeanClaude Juncker warned as Bri­tain pre­pares to trig­ger the start of Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions.

While there was no de­sire to pun­ish Bri­tain, the EU must de­ter other coun­tries from fol­low­ing, said the head of the EU’s ex­ec­u­tive arm yes­ter­day.

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s gov­ern­ment knew they would have to pay what they owed, said Juncker.

“We have to cal­cu­late what the Bri­tish com­mit­ments were and then the bill has to be paid,” he said. Asked if the bill would be £50 bil­lion, Juncker replied: “It’s around that.”

May plans to launch Bri­tain on a two-year process of ne­go­ti­a­tions to quit the EU on March 29, by trig­ger­ing Ar­ti­cle 50 of the bloc’s Lis­bon Treaty. The size of Bri­tain’s exit bill will be among the first — and most contentious — top­ics for dis­cus­sion, with Bri­tish min­is­ters in­di­cat­ing they do not be­lieve the UK is li­able for such a large sum. Juncker’s state­ment is the clear­est in­di­ca­tion from the com­mis­sion of the size of the bill, and is in line with an es­ti­mate cited by Aus­trian Chan­cel­lor Chris­tian Kern last month.

So far, the EU’s chief Brexit ne­go­tia­tor, Michel Barnier, has ar­gued that the terms of the di­vorce, in­clud­ing the size of the bill, must be set­tled first, be­fore any ne­go­ti­a­tions over the new trad­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween the UK and the EU could be­gin.

Bri­tain wants talks on the exit and a new free trade deal to run si­mul­ta­ne­ously, and its ar­gu­ment re­ceived a boost yes­ter­day when the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment said the two sets of talks could “over­lap”.

The EU’s re­main­ing 27 mem­ber states are pre­par­ing to cel­e­brate the 60th an­niver­sary of the bloc’s found­ing Treaty of Rome, without Bri­tain, to­day.

Juncker in­sisted the EU was not “in a hos­tile mood” on Brexit be­cause it wanted “a friendly re­la­tion­ship” with Bri­tain.

“But I don’t want others to take the same av­enue be­cause... that would be the end.”

Jean-Claude Juncker

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