EU still waiting to find out UK position on Brexit divorce bill, says top Brussels negotiator

Posted On: 
20th July 2017

The UK must make clear its position on exit payments to the EU “as quickly as possible”, Brussels’ top Brexit negotiator said today.

Michel Barnier at this morning's press conference in Brussels
Credit: 
PA

A frustrated-sounding Michel Barnier pointed out that the EU itself had set out its stall as long ago as May but was still not clear on the British position.

Brexit Secretary David Davis acknowledged there was still “a lot left to talk about” and urged both sides to demonstrate “flexibility”.

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Although the Government has said it recognises there will be some payments to be settled as part of Brexit, it is not yet clear how much Britain is willing to pay, and over what period.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson upped tensions with the bloc last week by saying the EU could “go whistle” if they demanded “extortionate” sums from the UK.

This morning Mr Barnier said he had “very clearly” told Brexit Secretary David Davis that discussions on the divorce bill could only begin once the UK itself had made its position clear.

Speaking at a joint press conference alongside Mr Davis, the Frenchman said:

“Last week the UK recognised the existence of obligations vis-a-vis the union beyond the date of withdrawal and the need to settle those obligations, as the EU itself had also already recognised and clearly only with that recognition is it possible to start work as quickly as possible on identifying exactly which obligations must be settled.

“The EU position was made public on 29 May, it is a result of the review of all the commitments which from our point of view must be covered by the withdrawal agreement.

“This week together we have provided a detailed legal analysis of these commitments.

“As I said very clearly to David, clarification of the UK position is indispensable for us to negotiate and for us to make sufficient progress on this financial dossier, which is inseparable from the other withdrawal dossiers. What we want – and we’re working on this – is an orderly withdrawal for the UK as decided and an orderly withdrawal means accounts must be settled. “

Mr Davis sought to play down Mr Johnson’s “go whistle” remarks, claiming they had only been about excessive demands.

“I wasn’t actually in the chamber for the Foreign Secretary’s comment but I think he said they could go whistle for ‘extortionate demands’, that was the phrase he used,” he said.