No bill agreed,
Prime Minister denies UK has reached £50bn ‘divorce’ settlement with EU
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.