Sunday 15 September 2019

Britain must settle €43bn EU divorce bill even after no-deal Brexit - says EU

  • EU expects Britain to honour all its financial obligations made during its membership of the bloc even after a no-deal Brexit
  • Statement comes after British PM Boris Johnson said that if Britain leaves without a deal, it will no longer legally owe divorce bill
  • London has 'yet to formally discuss the bill' with the EU - says EU executive
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends an extended working session on Climate, Biodiversity and Oceans during the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019. Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via REUTERS
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends an extended working session on Climate, Biodiversity and Oceans during the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019. Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via REUTERS
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attend the final day of the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019. Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via REUTERS
US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attend an extended working session on Climate, Biodiversity and Oceans during the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019. Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via REUTERS
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends the final day of the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France August 26, 2019. Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via Reuters
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks on during a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump during the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/Pool

Gabriela Baczynska and David Hughes

The European Union expects Britain to honour all its financial obligations made during its membership of the bloc even after a no-deal Brexit, a spokeswoman for the executive European Commission said on Monday.

The statement came after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that if Britain leaves without a deal, it will no longer legally owe the 39 billion pound (€42.94bn) divorce bill agreed by his predecessor.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attend the final day of the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019. Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via REUTERS
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attend the final day of the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019. Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via REUTERS

"All commitments that were taken by the 28 member states should be honoured. This is also and especially true in a no-deal scenario where the United Kingdom would be expected to continue to honour all commitments made during EU membership," the spokeswoman, Mina Andreeva, said.

"Settling accounts is essential to starting of a new relationship on the right foot, based on mutual trust," she said, adding that London has not formally raised the issue with the EU side so far.

US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attend an extended working session on Climate, Biodiversity and Oceans during the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019. Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via REUTERS
US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attend an extended working session on Climate, Biodiversity and Oceans during the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France, August 26, 2019. Jeff J Mitchell/Pool via REUTERS

The statement comes after Mr Johnson, who was using the G7 summit in Biarritz to hold talks with European Council president Donald Tusk, said he believed the chances of a deal were "improving" following a round of diplomacy including meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

But he refused to repeat his previous assertion that the odds of a no-deal outcome were a million to one.

Debate: President Donald Trump at the G7 meeting in Biarritz, France. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS
Debate: President Donald Trump at the G7 meeting in Biarritz, France. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS

"It all depends on our EU friends and partners, I think in the last few days there has been a dawning realisation in Brussels and other European capitals what the shape of the problem is for the UK," he told the BBC.

"I think it's going to be touch and go but the important thing is to get ready to come out without a deal."

In a series of broadcast interviews, Mr Johnson confirmed he would withhold the bulk of the £39bn (€42.7bn) divorce bill if there is not a deal.

"I think what the entire European Union understands is that if we come out without a deal that the £39bn is not pledged," he told Sky.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts during interviews at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France August 25, 2019. Andrew Parsons/Pool via REUTERS
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts during interviews at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France August 25, 2019. Andrew Parsons/Pool via REUTERS

If there was a no-deal Brexit, he would "guarantee" people would still be able to get medicine and added he thought it "highly unlikely" there would be any food shortages.

Before the summit, Mr Tusk urged Mr Johnson not to go down in history as "Mr No Deal". The prime minister told Sky: "The people who are going to be responsible for no deal are not in the UK, we don't want no deal."

US First Lady Melania Trump arrives ahead of a working dinner at the Biarritz lighthouse, in Biarritz, France during the G7 summit
US First Lady Melania Trump arrives ahead of a working dinner at the Biarritz lighthouse, in Biarritz, France during the G7 summit

Following the talks with Mr Tusk, Downing Street said Mr Johnson had told the council president "we will work in an energetic and determined way to get a better deal and we are very willing to sit down to talk with the EU and member states about what needs to be done to achieve that".

An EU official said the meeting had restated known positions and Brussels had been hoping for "new elements to unblock the situation".

US First Lady Melania Trump waves after disembarking from an airplane upon landing at the Biarritz Pays Basque Airport in Biarritz, south-west France, on August 24, 2019
US First Lady Melania Trump waves after disembarking from an airplane upon landing at the Biarritz Pays Basque Airport in Biarritz, south-west France, on August 24, 2019

Mr Johnson said US President Donald Trump is "very gung-ho" about a major UK-US trade deal following the first formal meeting between the two leaders earlier yesterday.

The prime minister was praised by the US president as the "right man for the job" of delivering Brexit and was promised a "very big trade deal" as they met in the margins of the G7 summit.

But Mr Johnson played down the prospects of a transatlantic deal being concluded within a year, as he believes Washington wants. He warned a deal with the "protectionist" US would not be "plain sailing".

Both leaders were keen to stress their desire for a trade deal after the UK has left the European Union.

The US president said: "We're going to do a very big trade deal, bigger than we've ever had with the UK and now at some point they won't have the obstacle, they won't have the anchor around their ankle, because that's what they have."

But Mr Johnson has raised a series of areas where he wants concessions from Washington.

Mr Trump said he wanted a deal done "quickly" as in the past he had been "stymied" by Theresa May.

Reuters

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