November 10, 2017 | Expert Insights
As Brexit talks stall, the European Union has given Britain two to three weeks to provide a final figure on the “divorce bill.” It has been reported that Theresa May’s government will now be willing to pay more than 20 billion pounds to the EU.
Since the time of Reformation five hundred years ago, England has historically tried to take up the role of maintaining the balance between contending powers in Europe. To that effect, it has used its naval strength, and the overseas colonies. In fact, England has historically considered itself such an integral part of continental Europe, that Henry VIII even contemplated being a candidate for Holy Roman Emperor. The extension of its power to Ireland and Scotland were contributions to its goal of defence against, and influence over, continental Europe.
In June 2016, Britain narrowly voted to leave the EU. The country is currently negotiating with EU officials to draw a roadmap for its exit. Brexit was one of the biggest geopolitical risks of 2016 that became a reality on June 23rd, 2016.
A year later, negotiations have commenced during which the roadmap for the exit is being drawn up. During the first round of meetings, UK declared that it will provide all European citizens living in the UK with a “settled status.” The biggest barricade will be the divorce bill. It seeks monetary compensation from the Britain for the debt it has through 44 years of EU membership. The settlement will also cover the various commitments that the UK had made during its tenure in the EU, including pledges made by former British Prime Minister, David Cameron.
In the recent weeks reports have emerged that the talks between EU officials and British authorities have broken down. Critics have stated that the British government headed by Theresa May might even suspend the Brexit process. However, May has made it clear that Brexit was “happening.” In an essay for The Telegraph she wrote, “The government has this week published a cross-party backed amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill which puts on the face of the Bill the date of our departure from the European Union. Let no-one doubt our determination or question our resolve, Brexit is happening.”
She added, “It will be there in black and white on the front page of this historic piece of legislation: the United Kingdom will be leaving the EU on March 29, 2019 at 11pm GMT.”
Despite May’s assertions the matter of the “divorce” bill still remains unresolved. Brussels has reportedly given Britain two to three weeks to set out how much it is prepared to pay in the Brexit divorce settlement. It has warned that the EU will otherwise struggle to prepare this year for a transition deal the UK badly wants. “We need to know soon,” said one senior EU negotiator. “There isn’t much time, there are no shortcuts.”
France and Germany are still urging the EU27 to stand firm and not race ahead in preparing texts until the UK has moved first. “They don’t want to send the wrong signal to London. We’re talking about transition and the future — but that’s it. It’s a start and only that,” said one EU diplomat involved in talks.
So far, May has put 20 billion pounds as the first offer for Brexit divorce. However, this has been deemed too little during negotiations. May has said that Britain “will honor commitments we have made during the period of our membership”. It has now been reported by the Financial Times that May and her team of negotiators will be considerably increasing the offer. May has said that Britain “will honour commitments we have made during the period of our membership”
“It is tactical but the situation is delicate,” said one senior EU official. “She has to move soon.” Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, on Thursday called for Britain to offer some “real clarification” on the financial settlement. Sir Ivan Rogers, Britain’s former EU ambassador, said last month that Britain might have to pay a further €30bn if were to pay for its full 12-13 per cent share of the EU’s €240bn of outstanding commitments, known as “reste a liquider”. Long term liabilities, such as pensions, would add another €10bn to the bill.
“The money isn’t the problem,” said one senior minister. “The real problem is deciding what our end-state relationship with the EU will be.” Another government figure said: “The domestic political obstacles to a deal may not be as high as they once seemed.”
Our assessment is that Theresa May will push for a resolution on the divorce bills before the December summit. If a figure is not finalized, then May’s own future in the government could be at stake. Public confidence in Theresa May’s ability to secure a positive Brexit has fallen to a record low, a new poll has revealed. 66 per cent of voters say they disapprove of the way the Government is handling Brexit negotiations.