British negotiators have told the European Union (EU) their sums on the so-called ‘Brexit bill’ do not add up.
The UK’s team insisted the demanded bill, which has fluctuated between €60 (£50.75) billion and €100 (£92) billion, has no legal basis. They also say an EU paper on the matter, which is just three pages long, is “unsatisfactory”.
According to The Guardian, British officials picked apart the EU claims over liabilities during a three-hour PowerPoint presentation, after European Commission chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, suggested the British are not “serious”, as they have not published a paper on the ‘Brexit bill’.
“The UK has made it clear that it finds the EU position paper on the money unsatisfactory and nobody would sign a cheque on the basis of the commission’s paper,” a source familiar with the UK’s position told the paper.
“It is also clear that they have an issue with the current view around town that ‘serious’ means agreeing with the commission. The UK doesn’t agree with it.”
— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) August 30, 2017
As tempers frayed, Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, said hopes of a divorce deal in October looked doubtful. “If it goes very slow, as is the case at the moment, it will be very difficult to say there is sufficient progress when we are in October,” he said.
He added: “If only one party around the table is putting a position and the other party is not responding then it is difficult to start a negotiation.”
The EU has repeatedly threatened that talks on the UK’s future trade relationship with the bloc and citizen’s rights could not begin until the bill is settled.
Committed Brexiteers have resisted the pay-out, 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.
Although Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have said the UK will pay something to the EU, Britain is currently challenging the claim it should pay into the EU budget until the end of 2020.
The EU has claimed the seven-year budget was agreed by David Cameron in 2013, but the UK contends that there is no legal basis for the payments, and too many extras have been thrown in.
Previous reports have suggested the French and Polish governments have pushed for the inclusion of post-Brexit annual farm payments, whilst the Germans are against granting Britain a share of any EU assets.
The UK could even be held to guarantees and loans to countries such as Ukraine and Portugal, with Britain being reimbursed as the loans are repaid.