World Economy

UK Rejects $116b EU Divorce Bill as Absurd

David Davis (L) and Michel Barnier clashed repeatedly  over the divorce settlement.David Davis (L) and Michel Barnier clashed repeatedly  over the divorce settlement.

Britain is being asked to continue funding the EU’s foreign aid program after Brexit, it emerged Thursday night. The EU’s demand for a £90 billion ($116 billion) ‘divorce bill’ was branded ‘absurd’ as details of the claim emerged at a press conference in Brussels.

Its chief negotiator Michel Barnier said there had been ‘no decisive progress’ at the third round of Brexit talks this week, Yahoo reported.

He then revealed some of the EU’s financial demands, including that funding for foreign aid, green projects and refugee programs continues after Britain has left. It also emerged the UK could be asked to keep paying into the EU’s coffers during any ‘transitional deal’.

Barnier suggested he would try to block progress on a new EU-UK trade deal unless Britain agrees to meet the demands.

But Brexit Secretary David Davis, who clashed repeatedly with Barnier during the press conference, made it clear the UK did not accept the EU’s claim, saying: “We have a duty to our taxpayers to interrogate it rigorously.”

He rebuked Barnier for suggesting British Brexit demands were driven by ‘nostalgia’ for EU membership, saying: “I wouldn’t confuse a belief in the free market for nostalgia.”

The apparent deadlock will increase pressure on Theresa May to appeal directly to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron to begin trade talks in defiance of Brussels. But Barnier issued a stern warning that any attempts to go over the commission’s head on the issue would fail.

 Threat of Delaying Talks

He struggled to contain his fury that the UK had produced a legal analysis rejecting the basis for the EU’s financial claim–and threatened to delay discussions of a future trading relationship unless Britain agrees to pay for a number of schemes. It follows four days of negotiations that brought little progress–Brussels is demanding concessions on the divorce bill so that trade talks can begin, but Davis blamed the bloc’s inflexibility for the deadlock.

Barnier also warned that the UK’s request for access to the single market without accepting the supremacy of the European Court of Justice was ‘impossible’.

He criticized Britain’s plan to have EU standards cut and pasted into UK law and be automatically recognized by the EU. “You cannot be outside the single market and shape its legal order,” he said.

Davis responded: “We have proposed pragmatic solutions to prevent this disruption and we urge the EU to be more imaginative and flexible in their approach to withdrawal on this point.”

On the divorce bill, Barnier said it ‘wouldn’t be fair’ for Britain not to pay for ongoing commitments undertaken with other members. “In July, the UK recognized it has obligations beyond the Brexit date but this week the UK explained it felt its obligations were limited to the last payment of the current EU budget,” he added.

The EU negotiator listed commitments he claimed Britain had agreed to that extend beyond the end of the current budget period in 2020–and rounded on the country for refusing to honor them.

He demanded that the UK agree to pay towards green infrastructure, foreign aid for Africa and the Caribbean, and loans to Ukraine.


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