Leading backbench MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has slammed European Union (EU) Brexit negotiators, claiming their threats to suspend talks until the UK pays a divorce bill are a “diversion tactic” designed to distract from the EU’s financial problems.
On Thursday, leaks revealed Michel Barnier, the EU chief Brexit negotiator, had made the threat at a private meeting with EU ambassadors over the UK’s resistance to paying the demanded 100-billion euro divorce bill.
He reportedly said the EU could suspend meetings with Brexit Secretary David Davis for two months unless the UK made a satisfactory offer.
Mr. Davis’s department yesterday dismissed the leaks, insisted trade talks will not be delayed and will start in October as planned.
“Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? He is the counter party in the negotiation and wishes to influence the process as much as possible.
“The difficulty is not that we don’t have a position, the difficulty is that the EU has failed to prove that we owe them any money at all.
“And under EU and international law, if we leave without a deal we owe them nothing, and that means that the EU needs a deal more than we do.
“And Mr. Barnier, by overstating his position and being overly demanding, is risking getting a less favorable deal for the European Union.
“And the European Union will find life very difficult without a deal because they need our money. They are in real trouble without our money.”
In March, the House of Lords EU financial affairs sub-committee published a report saying the UK has no legal obligation to pay the EU’s demanded Brexit bill.
In May, the UK hit back by claiming the bloc could, in fact, owe money to the UK, with Mrs. May saying Britain may be “owed a proportion” of the European Investment Bank and other assets.
It has also been reported that British officials are working to draw up a register of Britain’s share of EU assets, which could offset a share of liabilities the EU claims the nation owes.
Mr. Barnier has been making similar threats since February, when it first emerged he could be plotting to ban talks on a future trade deal – as well as the legal status of expats – until the government responded to his demands to pay the huge sum.