Saturday

25th May 2019

UK dismisses €54bn EU bill report

  • Davis said the EU is using time to pressure the UK into a financial deal. (Photo: European Commission)

The UK's Brexit negotiator has denied a newspaper report that prime minister Theresa May is willing to pay a £50 billion (€54 billion) "divorce bill" as part of the financial settlement with the EU, while verbal duelling escalated over the weekend between negotiators.

David Davis told the BBC that the Sunday Times report was "nonsense" and "completely wrong".

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He reiterated the UK's line that there is no legal obligation for the UK to pay for EU projects after leaving the bloc, but said there were "moral or political" reasons to agree on an exit bill.

The Sunday Times reported that the £50-billion bill would be announced after the Conservative Party's conference in October.

The UK negotiator also said on Sunday (3 September) that the European Commission made itself look "silly", claiming there was no progress made in last week's round of Brexit talks.

Davis insisted on The Andrew Marr Show that there has been progress, citing the example of health care rights for Brits living in the EU.

"The Commission puts itself in a silly position when it says nothing has been done when really important things have," he said.

"We put people before process, what they are in danger of doing is putting process before people," Davis added.

Davis' salvo came after a bruising third round of talks between London and Brussels, where no concrete results have been achieved on the key issues of the financial settlement and citizens' rights.

The British negotiator accused the EU of playing "time against money" and putting pressure on the UK to make concessions on the financial bill.

"Time is not running out […] they are trying to use time against us," he said.

Based on the Article 50 exit procedure, the UK will leave the EU in March 2019 - with or without an agreement.

After three round of talks, there has been little substantive progress on the issues on which the EU is seeking a political agreement before moving onto discussing the future relationship with the UK.

EU leaders are expected to review the progress in October after another two rounds of talks.

Davis' comments came after the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, warned that British citizens need to be "educated" about the consequences of leaving the EU customs union and the single market.

Barnier said at a conference in Italy on Saturday (2 September) that "there are extremely serious consequences of leaving the single market and it hasn't been explained to the British people."

"We intend to teach people ... what leaving the single market means," the French politician was quoted by the BBC as saying.

He said there was no punishment for the UK, but that the country must accept key principles, such as honouring the financial commitment it made to pay its share of the EU budget until 2020.

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