France insisted that the UK pay a Brexit bill of as much as 100 billion euros (US$115 billion), underlining the hurdles to substantial progress in negotiations toward a new relationship with the EU.
As the second round of talks wraps up in Brussels, French Minister of Finance Bruno Le Maire used a hearing on Wednesday evening in the French parliament in Paris to take a hard line on what the EU believes the UK owes the bloc in terms of liabilities and obligations.
To drive his point home, he evoked the spirit of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher when she won a rebate on Britain’s payments to the central EU budget, complaining that the UK was losing out despite being one of the biggest contributors.
“I will say what Margaret Thatcher used to say: ‘We want our money back,’” Le Maire said, citing the 100 billion euro figure that has been on the high end of the amounts touted.
“We can always debate the amount, but the fact that the United Kingdom must pay what it owes to the European Union budget is a non-negotiable prerequisite at the start of the talks,” he said.
The financial settlement, which the UK has only just acknowledged it will pay in principle, is the biggest stumbling block facing negotiators.
The UK government is keen for talks to move on to trade, but back home the notion of paying the EU is politically toxic, possibly even more so now that British Prime Minister Theresa May lost her parliamentary majority in last month’s election.
Little progress appears to have been made as the second round drew to a close in Brussels.
European Chief Negotiator for the UK Exiting the EU Michel Barnier, possibly with British Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis, was due to brief reporters later yesterday.
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