Sun, Mar 05, 2017 - Page 16 News List

UK not bound to pay EU without deal

BUDGETING WOES:UK lawmakers said an EU law provision exempts the UK from payments without a Brexit deal, but it also bars the UK from receiving any EU assets

Reuters, London

If Britain leaves the EU without agreeing an exit deal, it will not be legally obliged to contribute to the bloc’s budget post-Brexit, a committee of British upper-house parliamentarians said yesterday.

Money is likely to be one of the most contentious elements of the upcoming divorce talks. Other EU nations want Britain to pay its share of budget commitments — estimated informally by EU officials at roughly 60 billion euros (US$63.74 billion).

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said only that the government would consider paying into the EU to participate in “some specific European programs.”

Under Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, Britain has two years to make a deal with the EU, after which time it will leave without one unless all member states agree to extend negotiations.

“If agreement is not reached, all EU law — including provisions concerning ongoing financial contributions and machinery for adjudication — will cease to apply and the UK would be subject to no enforceable obligation to make any financial contribution at all,” the House of Lords EU Financial Affairs Committee said in a report.

The report also concludes that, in return, the United Kingdom will not be in a position legally to claim a share of the EU’s assets upon exit unless they are included in a withdrawal agreement.

Negotiating what Britain owes is one of the EU’s priorities for this year, with EU officials saying the bloc wants to agree with Britain on a formula for calculating the amount rather than defining a concrete sum in advance.

Britain will have to weigh the financial and political costs of making payments to the EU in return for agreement on things such as EU market access, the committee said.

“If the government wishes to include future market access on favorable terms as part of the discussions on the withdrawal agreement, it is likely to prove impossible to do so without also reaching agreement on the issue of the budget,” it said.

Britain will still formally trigger its departure from the EU by the end of this month, British Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis said on Friday.

At a joint press conference during a visit to Bratislava, Davis told Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico that the government wants to preserve the rights of EU citizens now living in Britain.

“For existing citizens in the UK, we want something that is very close to or identical to that of the rights of British citizens in terms of rights of residence, access to welfare,” Davis said.

“But that is something that will have to be agreed between us, in the whole 28,” he added, referring to all EU member states.

Hundreds of thousands of EU citizens living and working in Britain, a majority from eastern states such as Slovakia and Poland, are demanding that their rights be protected.

It is estimated that at least 1.2 million British citizens currently live and work in other EU member states. They, too, are lobbying to preserve their rights post-Brexit.

Additional reporting by AFP

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