Settle Your ‘Debt’ First! – Progress on Brexit Divorce Bill Sought While Trade Talks on Hold

Written by | Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

The European Union and the United Kingdom are finalizing a Brexit financial settlement but talks to reach an agreement that EU member states can support are still ongoing, according to the people involved in the talks. The financial settlement, which EU leaders firstly put at around €60 billion, in line with the past British spending promises to the bloc, has been a hurdle to progressing the negotiations. Brussels has said that without major progress on the Brexit bill, citizens’ rights and the future of the Irish-Irish border, the EU authorities will not begin working on a future trade deal with Britain.

British Prime Minister Theresa May had hinted that Great Britain, which is poised to leave the bloc in March 2019, will hold on to more than €20 billion in EU payments in 2019 and 2020. In recent days, London has also said that the British government is ready to stand by additional EU spending if the EU makes clear that it is ready to move negotiations onto the trade talks. Although the British have been working on the financial terms of the divorce with the chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier, any agreement needs to be backed by all other 27 member states.

Mrs. May is scheduled to travel to Brussels on Monday (4 December) for talks with the EU leadership since Monday is a firm deadline for the British to offer concessions that can unlock progress at the EU leaders summit in mid-December. However, both sides admit that more negotiating needs to be done on the financial bill to make sure that member states will support it.

Europeans have also repeatedly demanded a greater clarity from Britain on what commitments they will fulfill but no precise numbers have been approved yet. Brussels has generally demanded to stand by its share of past pledges including the contribution to the current EU budget, which ends in 2020, as well as future pension liabilities. There are also pledges to non-EU countries such as Turkey or Ukraine that Britain has signed up for in recent years, with gross liabilities totaling as much as €100 billion.

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