Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has backtracked and said the UK will pay a so-called Brexit ‘divorce bill’, having previously insisted the European Union (EU) could “go whistle” for the demanded €100 billion (£92 billion).
The European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, initially said the UK would be expected to pay around €60 billion (£50.75 billion), but nearly doubled the demanded sum in May.
The EU threatened that talks on the UK’s future trade relationship with the bloc and citizen’s rights could not begin until it was settled.
Committed Brexiteers have resisted the bill, and in March, the House of Lords’ EU financial affairs sub-committee published a report explaining that the UK has no legal obligation to pay it.
Mr. Johnson was once one of those who criticised the demanded bill, saying last month the EU can “go whistle” for their money.
Now, however, he claims Britain will pay some money as it is a “law abiding” nation that will meet its obligations.
Nobody is talking about how badly the EU needs Britain's cash https://t.co/n48GvZHvSk
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) July 31, 2017
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I am not saying I accept Mr. Barnier’s interpretation of what our obligations are. I am certainly saying we have to meet our legal obligations as we understand them. That is what the British people would expect.
“This is a matter for our excellent negotiators and you want them to get the best possible value for the UK taxpayer. We should pay not a penny more, not a penny less of what we think our legal obligations amount to.”
Questioned about his comments last month, Mr. Johnson added: “I think I was being asked then about some very large sums of money, I think 100 billion euros or pounds, that the EU Commission suggested we were on the hook for. That’s not a figure I recognise.”
During the interview, he also declined to say what figure he would consider fair and dodged questions on a possible ‘transition period‘ after Brexit.
He refused to give his view on the length of the transition period, noting: “There are several transition periods that are envisaged in the government’s proposals so far.”