U.K. Business Wants Brexit Bill Sorted So Trade Can Be Priority

  • CBI says a good trade deal is in everyone’s interest
  • EU-27 leaders due to meet on Brexit in Brussels this weekend

Britain’s largest business lobby said the U.K. and the rest of the European Union need to settle any exit bill fast and get cracking on a new trade deal.

Confederation of British Industry Director General Carolyn Fairbairn said a good Brexit arrangement isn’t about “doing the U.K. a favor,” but based on “solid economic reasoning for both sides.”

The EU’s 27 other leaders will hold a summit in Brussels this weekend to discuss their collective response to Brexit. Negotiations on the U.K.’s withdrawal haven’t even formally started and both sides are haggling over whether an exit bill of as much as 60 billion euros ($65 billion) should be agreed first or can take place alongside broader talks on the future relationship.

“Take a look at the numbers and you see that our long-term trading relationship is the real prize -- dwarfing any potential divorce settlement,” Fairbairn said in the text of remarks to be delivered on Thursday. “A one-off EU divorce bill of, some suggest, tens of billions of euros, compared to EU-U.K. trade worth well over 600 billion euros every year.”

Some EU leaders agree that the issue of the exit bill shouldn’t hold up talks for too long. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said last week that that while “sufficient progress” needed to be made, it’s important not to “wait for too long.” Denmark’s Lars Lokke Rasmussen said negotiators “should avoid small things destroying the possibility of closing a deal.”

Speaking in London yesterday, the EU’s former commissioner for trade Karel De Gucht said the U.K. will probably have to “crack first” and settle the terms of its withdrawal before turning to discussions on a future relationship.

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