U.K.’s Davis Says Brexit Bill Will Be Nothing Like Sums Floated

  • Juncker has suggested the EU will seek 50 billion pounds
  • Davis says Britain will ‘meet our international obligations’

Brexit: What Happens Once Article 50 Is Triggered?

Brexit Secretary David Davis said Britain will pay “nothing like’’ the sums of money European Union officials have floated as due when the U.K. leaves the bloc.

Three days after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the U.K. will be expected to pay around 50 billion pounds ($62 billion), Davis said that there had been “no explanation’’ behind such figures and he didn’t think “we’re going to be seeing that sort of money change hands.’’

The latest rebuttal by Davis was made on the BBC’s Question Time program on Monday. The bill is set to be an early source of disagreement between the two sides soon after Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Brexit on Wednesday, paving the way for two years of talks.

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EU officials argue the U.K. must cover costs such as past budget commitments and pensions for EU workers before they are willing to discuss terms. By contrast, U.K. officials have questioned the amount and the legality of any payment although Davis insisted the U.K. will “meet our international obligations, whatever that turns out to be.’’

The exchange came as both sides prepare for May’s government to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, ending more than four decades of U.K. membership in what has become a bloc of 28 nations and 500 million consumers stretching from the Atlantic to the Black Sea.

Facing a set of negotiations of unprecedented complexity, May must also confront constitutional upheaval at home as the semi-autonomous Scottish government pursues a second independence referendum. Lawmakers in Edinburgh are due to vote later on Tuesday to grant permission to request the legal means to hold the plebiscite by spring 2019.

Contingency Plans

Davis, the Brexit czar, said that discussions over the EU divorce and a new trade deal should be “in parallel,’’ another point of contention with EU negotiator Michel Barnier. He added that the U.K. is not aiming for talks to collapse without a deal, but that wouldn’t be as damaging as some claim and that the government has, in any case, contingency plans.

Speaking on Bloomberg Television on Monday, Rupert Harrison, a former government adviser and now a strategist at BlackRock Inc., said eventually there will be a “trade-off’’ between money and the U.K. securing a transitional period to ease Britain’s passage out of the EU.

The Guardian reported in Tuesday’s edition that pro-EU Conservatives are suggesting to May that she agree to reach a quick deal over the bill to maximize the chances of securing a free trade deal by 2019.

In the meantime, EU officials are still debating whether their draft guidelines for talks should refer to a transitional phase, according to a person familiar with the matter.

That blueprint is due to be circulated by EU President Donald Tusk by the end of the week and some members want to delay mentioning a transition to preserve leverage, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Others view the issue as an inevitable discussion point that should be addressed from the start, the person said.

The draft will outline how to calculate the divorce bill, the rights of citizens throughout the
bloc and the future of regulators such as the European Medicines Agency, the person said.

Asked about the rights of EU citizens in the U.K., Davis said they wouldn’t be treated as a bargaining chip in the discussions and that “people should not worry.’’

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