The Press

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand