Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has said the UK is not obliged to capitulate to the European Union over the divorce bill and that the government should invest in preparing for a “no deal” Brexit.
“The EU is saying they want us to settle money first. That’s their negotiating position, it isn’t holy writ, we don’t have to follow that,” the MP for North East Somerset told the BBC’s Sunday Politics.
Noting that losing the UK’s contributions would damage the bloc, the grassroots favourite to take over the Conservative Party added: “They need our money. If we don’t pay any money for the final 21 months of the multiannual financial framework, the EU has about a £20 billion gap in its finances. It has no legal authority to borrow.
“That means either it’s insolvent or the Germans or others have to pay more.”
Rees-Mogg insisted: “Our negotiating position on money is very strong and we shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking just because Monsieur Barnier has said it he has received tablets of stone like Moses. He hasn’t.”
Asked whether he thought that to spend £2.5 billion preparing for a no deal Brexit would be a waste of money, Rees-Mogg emphatically disagreed: “It’s really important that we are ready to leave in the event of a no deal… On current figures, spending £2.5 billion, we’d still be saving £15.5 billion against paying for the rest of the multiannual framework.
“So preparing for day one of a no deal would be money well spent.”
— BBC Daily Politics and Sunday Politics (@daily_politics) November 19, 2017
On Saturday, the Brexiteer told Sky News that Prime Minister Theresa May should not be “blackmailed” into paying a huge divorce bill after Downing Street distanced itself from claims the prime minister is willing to give the EU a large sum of taxpayers’ cash.
A government source reacted by saying reports that Mrs. May was willing to pay up to £50 billion to seal a divorce settlement were “wide off the mark”.
After a meeting with Mrs. May in Sweden on Friday, European Council President Donald Tusk gave the UK a two-week ultimatum to offer significant concessions, after sources said the EU could withhold Britain’s €5 billion budget rebate.
Barnier has already put a two-week deadline on the talks. However, on Saturday night, a source said the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator was trying to backtrack on this – with his team insisting he actually meant three weeks, not two.