EU Commissioner: UK Welcome to Stay in Bloc, But Must Pay Billions Extra

Guenther Oettinger

A senior European Union (EU) Commissioner has said in the “absolutely fabulous” instance Brexit is overturned, the UK can remain in the bloc but without its budget rebate, forcing to pay billions more every year.

Günther Oettinger, the German European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, also claimed a Brexit deal was much closer after reports suggested the UK’s Prime Minister is ready to give the EU massive new concessions.

Speaking from the Commission Friday, he said in the “improbable but pleasant case if the UK were to remain… then the gradual exit from the rebate would still be kept”.

He added: “I think [the rebate] is something that is no longer appropriate in a family of 27 [member states].”

The rebate is a financial mechanism that has been in place since 1985, after it was secured by former Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, slashing the UK’s net contribution to the EU.

In 2015, the British treasury estimated the rebate saves the British taxpayer almost £5 billion.

Mr Oettinger also confirmed reports from recent days suggesting progress was being made on the issue of the Irish border after the bloc insisted it cannot be kept open unless the entire UK or Northern Ireland remains locked in the Customs Union.

“It does appear possible there will be a breakthrough,” he said, insisting: “Certainly the way to do this [solve Irish border problem] is being prepared this week and most likely will be presented next week.”

EU leaders have a two-day summit starting Wednesday, and sources have claimed Mrs May will keep the entire UK inside the Customs Union for a potentially unlimited time frame, stopping the nation controlling trade policy.

A Downing Street spokesman said Friday that “The Prime Minister would never agree to a deal which could trap the UK in a backstop permanently” and claimed the “backstop” would be “temporary”.

However, they repeatedly refused to say if there would be a time limit, meaning the Cabinet and MPs could be asked to agree to Mrs May’s Brexit plan without a guarantee of when the UK will take back control of trade.

The spokesman added: “I can’t negotiate the final stages of documents in this room but what I can say is that our position is absolutely that the PM is not going to agree a deal which would trap us in a backstop permanently.”


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