Brexit: ‘The Clock Is Ticking’ Huffs Barnier, After Demand for 100 Billion Euros Shot Down

barnier
Reuters

Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, issued a sullen response to Boris Johnson after he agreed that Brussels can “whistle” for the 100 billion euros it is said to be demanding.

The Foreign Secretary made the offending remarks in Parliament responding to a characteristically combative question from Tory backbencher and long-time Brexit campaigner Philip Hollobone:

“Since we joined the Common Market on 1 January 1973 until the date we leave, we will have given the EU and its predecessors, in today’s money in real terms, a total of £209 billion,” he pointed out.

“Will the Foreign Secretary make it clear to the EU that if it wants a penny piece more, it can go whistle?”

“I am sure that my Hon. Friend’s words will have broken like a thunderclap over Brussels and they will pay attention to what he has said,” replied Johnson.

“[T]he sums that I have seen that they propose to demand from this country seem to me to be extortionate, and I think that to ‘go whistle’ is an entirely appropriate expression.”

The UKIP Brexit spokesman Gerard Batten also pointed to the large amount of money the United Kingdom has already paid into the European Union. In a message released Wednesday, the London MEP said: “If Mr Barnier wants to talk about who owes who money he is in for a nasty surprise.”Since 1973 The UK has made gross contributions to the EU Budget of over half a trillion pounds, or net contributions of almost £185 billion. According to the pro-EU think tank Bruegel, the EU has accumulated assets of over £133 billion.

“Since 1973 The UK has made gross contributions to the EU Budget of over half a trillion pounds, or net contributions of almost £185 billion. According to the pro-EU think tank Bruegel, the EU has accumulated assets of over £133 billion.

“If the EU wants to play hard-ball then the UK should demand its share of the assets – and contributions lost to fraud. Britain does not owe the EU a penny, and has no legal obligation to pay anything after we leave the EU.

“Rather than waste time and effort arguing about this, the easiest thing to do is to just call it quits and walk away.”

In Brussels Wednesday Barnier, a former European Commissioner and French foreign minister, seemed visibly irate when asked about Johnson’s comments at a joint press conference with Brexit secretary David Davis.

“I don’t want to make any comment,” he began – but immediately went on to say he was “not hearing any whistling, just a clock ticking”.

The Frenchman insisted the rumoured sum was “not a ransom” – as Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage has described it – but, curiously, “a matter of trust”.

Remain diehards in the UK have made much of the threat of a so-called “Brexit cliff-edge”, which would see the country leaving the EU without a formal deal and fall back on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules for trade.

However, with Britain being the rest of the EU’s largest export market and buying far more from the bloc than it sells to it, research suggests it would be hit hardest by such an arrangement.

British exporters would face total tariffs of around £5.2 billion, but tariffs on EU imports would raise a much larger £12.9 billion, and they could be compensated through a combination of research grants, subsidies, and general tax cuts.

Consumers and exporters alike could also see their situation improve with the completion of a raft of new international deals once Britain is able to take back control of its trade policy from Brussels, with EU leaders such as Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó warning Barnier’s team this would leave Europeans at a significant competitive disadvantage.

Boris Johnson has indeed confirmed that “countries were queueing up [for trade deals] at the G20 in Hamburg” – with U.S. President Donald Trump, in particular, stressing his desire for a “very, very big deal, a very powerful deal,” which he believes can be “done very, very quickly” after Brexit.

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery

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