The negotiating team of Europe’s Brexit has been left “flabbergasted” at the United Kingdom’s increasingly hostile stance over the so-called divorce bill.
As their British counterparts spent three hours discussed, line by line, the demands for a settlement, which is estimated to be anywhere between €75bn and €100bn, the EU official sat dumbstruck, sources say.
David Davis, the Brexit secretary, has openly acknowledged there is likely to be some “obligation” even though some Eurosceptic MPs have been vocal in dismissing talk that the United Kingdom should pay anything to leave the bloc.
As the latest round of talks concluded without progress, however, this seems to be the first time any Whitehall official has fully addressed the issue around the negotiating table.
“There was total amazement,” said a source from the EU, “Everyone was completely flabbergasted that this young man from Whitehall was saying that the EU’s preparation on the financial settlement was ‘inadequate.’ It did not go down well.”
The discussions took more than three hours. The British team believes the European Union is attempting to grab more money than it is legally entitled to.
Specifically, the United Kingdom is contesting assertions that it should be made to pay into the budget of the EU until 2020 – while Europe maintains that is the case as David Cameron committed to the 7-year budget as prime minister in 2013.
“The UK has made it clear that it finds the EU position paper on the money unsatisfactory and nobody would sign a cheque by the commission’s paper,” another source said.
“It is also clear that they have an issue with the current view around town that ‘serious’ means agreeing with the commission. The UK doesn’t agree with it.”
The discussions came before Michel Barnier, Europe’s Brexit negotiator, admitted they had again failed to get past the impasse.
Barnier said, at a joint press conference with David Davis, that there has been “no decisive progress” and was still “quite far” away from being in a situation to start talks on trade arrangements in the future.
Barnier has been very critical regarding the United Kingdom’s “position documents” – described as “unsatisfactory” by his European Commission boss Jean-Claude Juncker.
The divorce bill’s issues, and that of the border in Ireland, and citizenship have to be settled before any trade talks that may begin in detail says the EU.
On the other hand, during the press conference, Davis said: “As I said at the start of the week, it’s only through flexibility and imagination that we will achieve a deal that works truly for both sides.
“In some areas, we have found this from the [European] Commission’s side, which I welcome, but there remains some way to go.”