Britain must stand firm on Brexit bill, say Boris allies
BRITAIN must not cave in to EU demands for a bigger Brexit divorce bill after Brussels set a two-week deadline for the UK to improve its offer, allies of Boris Johnson have warned.
Michel Barnier, the EU’S chief Brexit negotiator, yesterday said Britain must show “real and sincere progress” on the Brexit bill if it wants to break the deadlock by the end of the year.
It comes amid reports that Theresa May is preparing to increase the UK’S offer to the EU after Brussels said that the €20billion (£18billion) she had already committed was not enough. The EU wants at least €60billion.
The Foreign Secretary, who has previously said that the EU can “go whistle” if it wants a huge divorce bill, is understood to believe that the UK must hold its nerve ahead of the December summit. An ally of Mr Johnson said: “You don’t pay your bill at a restaurant halfway through; you pay at the end. That’s sensible business.”
Last night sources close to the British negotiations warned the EU that Brexit negotiations would “collapse” if it does not take a more reasonable approach to talks.
Tory Eurosceptics have warned the Brexit divorce bill is “critical” and that the UK cannot afford to give any more ground. Iain Duncan Smith, a Tory MP and former Conservative leader, told The Daily Telegraph: “They think we blinked in Florence and now they believe we will blink again. We must not blink.
“The one big hand we have is money. They are desperate. If we give away that we give away any chance of getting a good free trade agreement. The two get decided at the same time.
“The money is critical, we cannot
give any more ground on this. Tory Eurosceptics are getting really unnerved by this. It is stretching them to breaking.”
Senior EU diplomats told The Daily Telegraph that the UK must commit to paying outstanding budget contributions, pensions and other liabilities if it wants to make progress with talks.
“Trust has suffered a lot in the last few months, and the possible interpretations of what these items stand for are very broad,” the source said.
“So we need all three to be mentioned, and only then we need to work on the amount.”
However, the UK is disputing the way that the EU is calculating the bill and believes that the weaker pound means the UK should pay considerably less than the €60billion expected. A UK source said: “The problem is that it is disingenuous – to put it mildly – for the EU to suggest that they just want us to say a single sentence to move on.
“They say they don’t want to generate ‘a number’ but they want to define what that sentence means in such a way that, in practice, those commitments are defined within a very narrow band.”
British negotiators say that the UK would, in theory, be prepared to discuss the principles of the Brexit divorce bill but do not want to give away their hand.
Another source familiar with Britain’s negotiating position warned: “If the demands for sufficient progress become too big, there is risk that the whole process will collapse.”