Juncker's `Harsh' Treatment of U.K. Bad for Germany: Merkel Ally

  • CSU Lawmaker Stephan Mayer rejects talk of ‘hefty’ bill
  • Talks on divorce and on future relationship ‘linked:’ Mayer

The European Commission’s “harsh” treatment of the U.K. isn’t good for Germany, said a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s parliamentary bloc, a day after Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned the U.K. faces a “hefty bill” when it leaves the European Union.

“I fear in a certain way that this harsh pressure which is now put from the EU Commission on the U.K. isn’t in Germany’s interests,” Stephan Mayer, a lawmaker for Merkel’s CSU Bavarian sister party, said on Wednesday in a BBC radio interview. “The negotiations haven’t started yet and I think it is not very clever and it’s not very fair also to mention such sums and such amounts.”

Reports have put the possible exit bill -- dismissed as “absurd” by U.K. Trade Secretary Liam Fox -- at an estimated 60 billion euros ($64 billion), including future contributions to EU programs that Britain has already signed up to. The U.K. government has said it won’t pay for any EU projects signed after last November.

Both sides are positioning ahead of two years of talks that Prime Minister Theresa May says she’ll trigger by the end of March. May has said she wants the U.K. to retain as close trading ties as possible with the bloc after Brexit, while other EU leaders, including Merkel, have warned that Britain can’t pick the best bits of membership and disregard the rest.

“For both sides these negotiations will be very complicated, very complex,” Mayer said. “It will be the most difficult negotiations ever led by the European Union, but I think it’s not very smart now to start these negotiations with such amounts which are mentioned now.”

Mayer also said he thinks talks surrounding the divorce terms and discussions on the nature of Britain’s future relationship with the bloc are “linked,” pushing back against the stance of EU negotiator Michel Barnier, who maintains that settling the terms of exit must come before discussions about a future relationship.

“I am convinced you can’t differentiate the two topics,” Mayer said. “The first topic certainly is to arrange the divorce and to arrange the circumstances under which the U.K. leaves the European Union and the second topic is in which way you cooperate after the Brexit. But I think both topics are linked together. I am convinced you can’t divide these two topics.”

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