May wants something in return on Brexit bill

There are reports that the UK will up the offer to EU to RM218.8b


LONDONPrime Minister Theresa May is ready to put more money on the table to settle the Brexit divorce bill — but the Brits are plugging away at getting the European side to give her something in return.

“We’re headed in the right direction and what matters now is that the UK and European Union (EU) take a step forward together,” James Slack, May’s spokesman, told reporters yesterday in a sign that any improved offer on the bill must be matched with a pledge to start talking about trade.

Members of her Cabinet’s Brexit sub-committee met on Monday to thrash out a strategy that would be acceptable to both the pro-and anti-European factions of her senior team. Specific figures and scenarios are subject to negotiation, he said in response to reports that UK will up the offer to EU to £40 billion (RM218.8 billion) — €45 billion or US$53 billion.

Moreover, the EU isn’t demanding numbers at this stage but rather a clear idea from the UK of where it thinks it’s on the hook for liabilities accrued during membership.

The government does not agree to give the European Court of Justice (ECJ) a role guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit, Slack said, a explicit denial of a report yesterday by ITV’s Robert Peston. The role of the ECJ will end after the two-year transition that the UK hopes will follow on March 29, 2019 — when the country will formally leave.

May, who meets some EU leaders last Friday, is seeking to break an impasse in negotiations ahead of a key summit in mid-December. With just 16 months to go until Britain leaves the bloc, talks are deadlocked mainly because of the financial settlement, and discussions of future trading terms can’t even begin until the EU side is happy with Britain’s offer on the bill.

The EU is pushing for Britain to pay at least €60 billion (RM290.68 billion) to cover budgetary commitments and future liabilities such as pensions for EU civil servants. In September, May said she will make €20 billion of budget payments after Brexit and has since said they are going through EU demands line by line.

On the bill, the choreography is going to be key.

The Financial Times reported that the government won’t put the offer to Brussels until Dec 8, well after the deadline set by European officials, and just before the crunch summit on Dec 14-15. That’s cutting it close as the conclusions of such summits are usually drawn up in advance: EU ambassadors are due to draft the statements on Dec 6.

But there’s a session of sherpas — the representatives of EU leaders — on Dec 11 and the UK may be aiming to land its offer in time for this meeting. — Bloomberg