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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Why Theresa May will not have it all her own way in Brexit negotiations

The UK has voted to leave the EU. That fact is undisputed. What happens next is up to the UK Government and, if they are given any say at all, Parliament and perhaps the people in a second referendum. There is no mandate though for a hard Brexit or indeed any outcome other than to leave the EU.

During the referendum many assurances where given to voters including that leaving the EU would provide an additional £350m a week for the NHS and that we would still be part of the single market. Both of those promises look like they will turn out to be a lie.

And of course none of the Brexiteers talked about our treaty obligations, commitments that we cannot just walk away from. It is those commitments that will ensure that the EU has an upper hand in deciding the timetable for a future trade agreement. They have a right to protect their interests as well.

Thus, today's Guardian tells that EU diplomats have agreed unanimously that Britain must settle its bills before embarking on trade talks. And why not? Isn't that how any divorce agreement works?

As the paper says: The position has been set out by EU leaders from the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, to the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, but this will be the toughest statement yet from all 27 countries.

“Member states are maximalist on the budget issue, because if Britain doesn’t pay, other member states will have to pay,” an EU diplomat said. Another senior diplomat said he had never seen net payers and recipients “working so closely with each other” in a wry allusion to the perennial tensions between countries that pay most into the EU budget and those that receive the biggest grants.

The UK is due to make a net payment of around £20.4bn into the EU pot in 2019-20, in line with a promise David Cameron made in 2012 when he negotiated the EU’s seven-year budget. The European commission, however, believes the bill could come to as much as €60bn (£50bn) once the UK’s contribution to EU liabilities, pensions and special funds is taken into account. Barnier’s team will not present a bill on day one of the talks, but instead hopes to bind Britain to a set of principles on paying its dues, an approach broadly backed by Germany.

It is funny how none of the Brexiteers told us about this when they were campaigning to leave the EU.
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