Belfast Telegraph

Home News Brexit

UK threat not to pay £39bn Brexit divorce bill over Europe's hardball attitude

by shaun connolly

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has accused the EU of "irresponsibly" ramping up pressure in withdrawal negotiations.

The comments came as he indicated he was still trying to persuade all members of the Cabinet that Theresa May's Chequers compromise agreement was "the best plan to get the best deal".

As Mr Raab - who has said a deal with the EU can be reached by October - readied to return to Brussels for more Brexit talks on Thursday, he signalled that Britain could withhold its £39 billion divorce bill if it did not get a trade deal in return.

He was scathing about comments from Brussels stating that a no deal scenario would mean there would be no specific arrangements in place for UK citizens living on the Continent, or for EU migrants in Britain after withdrawal.

Mr Raab told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show yesterday: "Well, I think that's a rather irresponsible thing to be coming from the other side.

"We ought to be trying to reassure citizens on the Continent and also here.

"There is obviously an attempt to try and ramp up the pressure."

The Brexit Secretary said there had to be "conditionality" under the Article 50 withdrawal mechanism between settling Britain's exit payment and creating a new relationship with the EU.

He told the Sunday Telegraph: "Article 50 requires, as we negotiate the withdrawal agreement, that there's a future framework for our new relationship going forward, so the two are linked.

"You can't have one side fulfilling its side of the bargain and the other side not, or going slow, or failing to commit on its side.

"So, I think we do need to make sure that there's some conditionality between the two."

The comments appeared at odds with Chancellor Philip Hammond, who said of the divorce payment last December: "I find it inconceivable that we as a nation would be walking away from an obligation that we recognised as an obligation.

"That is not a credible scenario. That is not the kind of country we are. Frankly, it would not make us a credible partner for future international agreements."

Mr Raab also defended the controversial Chequers Cabinet compromise on withdrawal aims, insisting he wanted to persuade voters and Cabinet colleagues.

Asked if reports the Government was planning to stockpile food for a no deal outcome were true, Mr Raab told the BBC: "No. That kind of selective snippet that makes it into the media I think is - to the extent that the public pay attention to it - I think is unhelpful."

On the same show, former Prime Minister Sir John Major became the latest prominent Conservative to leave the door open to a new referendum, insisting that such a vote would be "morally justified".

On a second referendum, Sir John told The Andrew Marr Show: "I mean, frankly, a second vote has democratic downsides. It has difficulties.

"But is it morally justified? I think it is.

"A referendum isn't an easy option, but it's not one at this stage that I would rule out."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph