Eurocrats Threaten to Block Future Trade Deal over Divorce Bill

Little Englander
NICOLAS MAETERLINCK/AFP/Getty Images

The EU has threatened to block a future trade deal if the UK refuses to pay the £39 billion ‘divorce bill’ in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Senior MEP and fanatical EU federalist Guy Verhofstadt, who came to the UK in May to campaign with the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats ahead of the European Parliament elections, wrote on Sunday: “If the UK doesn’t pay what is due, the EU will not negotiate a trade deal. After a ‘no deal’, this will be a first condition of any talks. Britain is better than this.”
The comments came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during the G7 in Biarritz, France, last weekend that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on October 31st it would not be obliged to pay the bloc £39 billion, a sum agreed by his predecessor Theresa May.

Prime Minister Johnson said: “If we come out without an agreement it is certainly true that the £39bn is no longer, strictly speaking, owed.”

“There will be very substantial sums available to our country to spend on our priorities. It’s not a threat. It’s a simple fact of reality,” he added.

Last month, Mr Johnson’s new government confirmed that it viewed the £39 billion bill as void if the UK leaves without a deal, with Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak throwing the EU’s words back at Brussels by pointing out that “‘Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.’”

“They can’t just cherry-pick the money they need and ignore the rest of the deal that we want” — namely the removal of the controversial Irish backstop — Mr Sunak had said.

Mr Verhofstadt’s threat was backed up by a spokeswoman for the European Commission, Mina Andreeva, who said: “All commitments that were taken by the 28 member states should be honoured. This is also and especially true in a no-deal scenario where the United Kingdom would be expected to continue to honour all commitments made during EU membership.”

“Rather than going now into a judicial action threat, I think that it is important to make clear that settling accounts is essential to starting of a new relationship on the right foot, based on mutual trust,” Ms Adreeva added.

French President Emmanuel Macron also demanded last week that the bill be paid, an opinion shared by Germany.

The £39 billion (€43bn) represents a substantial chunk of the Commission’s €1.09 trillion 2014-2020 budget, with the Commission revealing last year that the UK’s departure would leave the bloc short some €12bn a year. Britain had agreed to continue contributing to the EU’s budget until 2020 — on the British government’s understanding that that would cover the ‘transition period’ originally set to end December 2020.

Lawyers and Tory MPs have argued that the UK would not legally owe the EU anything in a clean exit on October 31st; while senior EU figured have claimed that to do so would be illegal, the European Commission’s finance chief Günther Oettinger admitted in June that there is “not really a court” that could force the UK to pay divorce bill.

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