EU will ‘stall’ Brexit talks if UK won’t pay
BELGIUM: Britain will wait until the ‘‘11th hour’’ before agreeing to a final settlement on the European Union’s so-called Brexit bill, it has emerged, as negotiators lock horns over the financial settlement during Brexit negotiations in Brussels.
As the first round of substantive talks entered a second day yesterday, it became clear that the biggest gaps between the two sides remain over the EU’s demand for a gross €100 billion financial settlement.
In a sign of the tensions over the issue, EU diplomats reportedly threatened to ‘‘stall’’ the Brexit talks if the United Kingdom did not make a serious offer.
Last week the UK conceded it did have financial ‘‘obligations’’ to the EU, but it is refusing to agree on hard numbers until the EU side provides legal justification for the demands, which British officials have described as ‘‘ludicrous’’ and ‘‘outrageous’’.
Among the disagreements is the EU’s insistence that it will not deduct the UK’s share of the EU’s multibillion-euro asset portfolio when calculating any final bill.
‘‘The EU view seems to be that we have liabilities but no share in the assets, which is nonsense,’’ said one senior UK official.
Both sides have done little to hide their frustrations, with the EU skittish about how it will fill the €10b-a-year black hole that will be left in its annual budget after Brexit.
British negotiators expect that the EU will find it increasingly difficult to defend its rigid pre-talks positions.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson apparently mocked the EU’s negotiating team yesterday by going jogging in a T-shirt covered in French exclamations by Captain Haddock from the Tintin books.
The fashion choice was taken as a dig at EU negotiators who once hung a poster on the wall of their negotiation room showing a spoof Tintin book cover, Tintin and the Brexit Plan, depicting the Belgian boy reporter warming his hands on a fire in a wooden boat.
The EU has also been briefing officials that the UK is ‘‘not wellprepared’’ for the talks - a move that is causing irritation in Whitehall, which has spent months developing detailed negotiating positions on the rights of EU and British expatriates after Brexit, Northern Ireland, and the financial package.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has said that ‘‘sufficient progress’’ must be made on these three areas before the EU will discuss trade and the future relationship with the UK.
Meanwhile, Owen Paterson, a former British cabinet minister, travelled to Hamburg today and told an audience - in German - that ‘‘Brexit is going to happen’’.
Paterson said earlier he would tell a conference that ‘‘spiteful protectionism by the [European] Commission is in no-one’s interest, and German politicians are realising this’’.
British officials have also risked upsetting their EU counterparts by suggesting an amendment to the negotiations schedule, after it emerged that one of the original days in August fell on a Bank Holiday Monday in Britain. The change could split the August talks into two separate two-day sessions, disrupting the summer holiday plans of some EU bureaucrats.
– Telegraph Group