BRUSSELS (AFP) – Prime Minister Theresa May warned EU leaders Thursday that Britain would not keep paying “huge sums” into the EU budget after Brexit, as she expressed impatience to start the divorce.
At her last Brussels summit before her deadline to trigger the Article 50 withdrawal process by the end of March, May said she wanted to “get on with” leaving the European Union — and said her fellow EU leaders agreed.
The EU has said that settling Britain’s financial liabilities will be a priority in the forthcoming negotiations, with EU officials estimating the bill at 60 billion euros.
“I’m clear that when people voted on June 23 for us to leave the European Union, they voted for us in the future not paying huge sums of money into the European Union every year,” May told a press conference.
“And of course when we leave the European Union that will be the case.”
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had earlier urged May to follow the example of former Conservative premier Margaret Thatcher, who secured Britain’s EU budget rebate in 1984.
“Mrs Thatcher said she wanted her money back and I think that is exactly what we will get,” Johnson told the BBC.
May quipped that “there’s only ever one Margaret Thatcher”.
A bill empowering May to trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, starting a two-year divorce process, will return to parliament on Monday.
Final approval is expected by the middle of the week, leaving the prime minister’s path clear to start the withdrawal.
“Our European partners have made clear to me that they want to get on with the negotiations, and so do I,” May said.
“It’s time to get on with leaving the European Union and building the independent self-governing global Britain the British people have called for.
“And so, as I have said, we will trigger Article 50 by the end of this month.
“This will be a defining moment for the UK as we begin the process of forging a new role for ourselves in the world, as a strong country with control over our borders and over our laws.”
May will depart after the summit dinner on Thursday, leaving the other 27 EU leaders to discuss their future without Britain on Friday.
“We’re taking a different path to the 27 and it’s only natural that those remaining would want to meet and discuss what this means for them,” a Downing Street spokesman said.