No bill agreed,

Prime Min­is­ter de­nies UK has reached £50bn ‘di­vorce’ set­tle­ment with EU

The Courier & Advertiser (Dundee Edition) - - NEWS - Ge­orgiNa sTubbs

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May has de­nied that the UK has agreed a Brexit “di­vorce bill” with the Euro­pean Union, amid re­ports of a deal which could see Bri­tain pay up to £50 bil­lion.

Mrs May in­sisted that the UK was “still in ne­go­ti­a­tions” with the EU and that “noth­ing is agreed un­til ev­ery­thing is agreed”.

Of­fi­cials close to the talks in Brus­sels were widely re­ported on Tues­day as say­ing that broad agree­ment has been reached on a frame­work for the UK to set­tle li­a­bil­i­ties ex­pected to to­tal around 45-55 bil­lion eu­ros (£40-£49bn).

But UK au­thor­i­ties said they did not “recog­nise” the fig­ures.

In a round of TV in­ter­views dur­ing a visit to Iraq, Mrs May was asked di­rectly whether the UK had agreed how much it would pay the EU.

She replied: “No, we are still in ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Euro­pean Union ... As the EU them­selves have said, noth­ing is agreed un­til ev­ery­thing is agreed.”

Mrs May re­peated her call for the UK and EU to “move in step to­gether” to trig­ger the sec­ond phase of Brexit talks, deal­ing with trade and se­cu­rity, at a crunch sum­mit of mem­ber states’ lead­ers in the Euro­pean Coun­cil on De­cem­ber 14-15.

She is due to meet Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker on Mon­day for talks which it is hoped will al­low the EU’s chief Brexit ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier to give his bless­ing for the sec­ond phase by declar­ing that “suf­fi­cient progress” has been made on the di­vorce is­sues of cit­i­zens’ rights, the fi­nan­cial set­tle­ment and the Ir­ish bor­der.

In a state­ment re­leased by the com­mis­sion early yes­ter­day, Mr Barnier cau­tioned that agree­ment on the di­vorce was “not there yet” and he was still wait­ing for “suf­fi­cient progress from Lon­don”.

But speak­ing later in the day in Ber­lin, he sounded a more op­ti­mistic note: “We are work­ing re­ally hard on th­ese sub­jects and I just wish and hope that, when the Euro­pean Coun­cil meets in a few days’ time, I can re­port that we have ne­go­ti­ated that deal and we have reached a very im­por­tant step in our re­la­tion­ship.

“If we find that very im­por­tant agree­ment in the next few days, we are ex­pect­ing that in 2018 the Euro­pean Coun­cil will set a new frame­work for this new part­ner­ship with the UK.”

How­ever, dif­fer­ences with Dublin over the sta­tus of the bor­der could still block progress next month.

Ire­land holds a veto on the green-light for trade talks, and Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar said yes­ter­day that the “very strong” sol­i­dar­ity of­fered by the 26 other re­main­ing EU states meant that he would not even have to wield it if Dublin was not happy with Bri­tain’s of­fer.

Mrs May said she was “op­ti­mistic” that the ne­go­ti­a­tions will pro­duce a good deal for both the UK and EU.

She ap­peared to con­tra­dict re­ports that the Govern­ment is pre­par­ing to of­fer a con­ces­sion on EU cit­i­zens’ rights, by giv­ing the UK Supreme Court the power to re­fer cases up to the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice where it felt un­qual­i­fied to ad­ju­di­cate on them.

De­par­ture from the EU will de­liver “the end to the ju­ris­dic­tion of the ECJ over peo­ple in the UK”, she said.

Chief Sec­re­tary to the Trea­sury Liz Truss said that any “di­vorce bill” for Brexit will be de­pen­dent on the UK get­ting a good deal on fu­ture trade.

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