News | Published August 27 2019

EU trade talks blocked if UK refuses to pay Brexit bill

The European Union has stated that any future trade talks with the UK would be blocked if the government refused to pay the £39 billion Brexit bill.

Boris Johnson, speaking at the G7 summit in Biarritz, said it was a “simple statement of reality” that the UK would withhold much of the financial settlement in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The £39 billion, negotiated by Johnson's predecessor Theresa May, consists of the UK's membership contribution to the EU until the end of 2020 as well as the British share of the cost of EU staff pensions. 

The EU rejected this claim, warning they would refuse to negotiate any future trade deal until this settlement was paid in full.

Describing the payment as a “totemic” issue for the 28 member states, one official said: “The message will be ‘honour your debts, or we are not even going to start talking about a trade deal.”

This view was echoed by Jean-Claude Piris, former head of the EU council legal service, who said: “If the UK refuses to pay its debts to the EU, then the EU will not accept to negotiate a trade agreement with the UK.”

After saying that the UK can “easily cope with a no-deal scenario”, Boris Johnson argued that a no-deal Brexit would mean the “£39 billion is no longer, strictly speaking, owed.”

“There will be very substantial sums available to our country to spend on our priorities. It’s not a threat. It’s a simple statement of reality.”

According to the Guardian, the widely reported figure of £39 billion, which has never been confirmed by the EU, has become inaccurate.

As this estimation was based on the UK leaving the EU on March 29, it has become outdated as the UK has continued to pay into the EU budget. Because of these continued contributions, the real figure is likely lower. 

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Authored by

George Salmon
Political Editor
August 27 2019

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