EU Approves Tough Brexit Talks Stance, Demanding U.K. Pays

Updated on
  • Barnier targets week of June 19 for beginning of negotiations
  • Brexit Secretary Davis says role of EU court is unacceptable

Tusk: Brexit Talks Need To Have ‘Phased Approach’

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The European Union finalized its tough Brexit negotiating position, reiterating its hard line on the U.K.’s departure bill and refusing to discuss a future trading arrangement until there is agreement on other key topics.

“We want to move to a situation where all the commitments taken by the U.K. will be honored, as will ours with the U.K.,” Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, told reporters in Brussels on Monday after a meeting of the remaining 27 national governments. “We need to settle the accounts, and that’s a question of trust between us to build our future relationship.”

Michel Barnier on May 22.

Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

Speaking a day after U.K. Brexit Secretary David Davis was quoted in an interview as saying Britain would walk away from talks unless the bloc drops its high financial demands, Barnier said it would be wrong to see any collapse in the negotiations as a success.

The size of Britain’s exit bill, which some estimates put as high as 100 billion euros ($112.4 billion) and is based on the U.K.’s past financial commitments to the EU, has been a source of debate for weeks and will prove an early test of the ability of both sides to find common ground when negotiations start. Even a 1 billion-pound settlement would be “a lot of money,” Davis said in the interview published in the Sunday Times.

“All 27 of us today have confirmed the position we’re going to defend,” Barnier said. “I do understand the U.K. has different positions, but as we’ve said, a negotiation is a negotiation.”

QuickTake Q&A: Brexit’s Costs and Whether Britain Will Pay Up

The negotiating mandate covers the main areas that need to be tackled before any discussion of a free-trade arrangement, and touches on the divorce bill, citizens’ rights and the U.K.’s border with Ireland, and says that EU judges should be able to rule on whether the agreement is being applied.

The EU’s insistence over the role of European courts brought a sharp reaction from Brexit Secretary Davis who said any deal would need independent enforcement.

“An ideological obsession in Brussels with one-sided jurisdiction by the European Court of Justice -- in the U.K., after we have left the EU -- is not acceptable and will not work,” Davis said in an emailed statement.

Barnier said he is seeking to organize the first round of the talks in the week of June 19. Envoys from the EU’s 27 countries will meet in Brussels on Tuesday to start discussing more detailed positions on the main issues under negotiation. Their position papers are likely to be published next week, an EU official said, raising the prospect of contentious Brexit demands from the European side appearing a week before the U.K. general election.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May used the looming talks as a reason for voters to re-elect her Conservative Party to government in the June 8 election. “There will be no time to waste and no time for a new government to find its way," she said in a speech in Wales on Monday. “Every vote for me and my team in this election will be a vote to strengthen my hand in the negotiations to come.”

The initial part of the Brexit discussions will be spent working out the order of talks, threatening a breakdown even before the debate on substantive matters begins. The EU has rejected May’s request that the sides discuss the U.K.’s future trading relationship with the bloc at the same time as issues relating to its withdrawal.

Negotiating Mandate

Included in the EU’s negotiating mandate published on Monday is the demand that European citizens living in the U.K. at the time of Brexit should have the right to permanent residence after living there for five years.

It also stipulates that the financial settlement should include all costs related to Brexit, including the relocation of EU agencies currently based in the U.K.

The two sides have until March 29, 2019, to find common ground on the separation. At that point, Britain will leave the EU regardless of whether it has a deal or not.

The EU’s mandate says that the U.K. will depart at the end of that day Brussels time while the British government envisages leaving the bloc an hour later, when Big Ben chimes midnight in London.

“They have to realize that if you’re part of a club and you want to leave -- and it’s very British -- you have to pay your contribution,” Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders told reporters in Brussels. A good agreement between the EU and the U.K. “is in the interests of all of us.”

— With assistance by Eddie Buckle

(Updates with Davis in seventh paragraph.)
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