UK Brexit secretary threatens to withhold divorce bill

Written by Martin Banks on 23 July 2018 in News
News

The UK’s new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has come under fire after insisting that Britain’s EU exit payment of over €40bn is conditional upon reaching a future trade agreement with the EU. 

Dominic Raab | Photo credit: Press Association


His hard-line stance comes as UK Prime Minister Theresa May and senior ministers on Monday started what has been described as a ‘Brexit charm offensive’.

May will this week meet Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. Another close aide, David Lidington, will go to France later this month and the new foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is in Germany on Monday to meet with his counterpart Heiko Maas. Interior minister Sajid Javid will travel to Spain and Business Secretary Greg Clark will go to Italy.

Meanwhile, speaking on Sunday, Raab defended the UK’s threat to withhold its divorce bill by stating that the Article 50 mechanism requires both a withdrawal agreement as well as an outline of the future UK-EU relationship.


RELATED CONTENT


Raab, who met Barnier for the first time last week and is due back in Brussels on Thursday to resume talks, said, “You can’t have one side fulfilling its side of the bargain and the other side not, or going slow, or failing to commit on its side. We need to make sure that there’s some conditionality between the two.

“It needs to go into the arrangements we have at international level with our EU partners. We need to make it clear that the two are linked.”

Raab also predicted that a Brexit deal could be struck within a few months. He said, “If it’s reciprocated, the energy that we are going to bring to these negotiations, the ambition and the pragmatism, we will get a deal done in October.” 

On Friday, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier cast doubt on this, saying that while the UK government’s white paper for a future UK-EU partnership opened “the way to a constructive discussion”, the EU27 still have many questions about the plan. 

Barnier voiced concerns over the UK’s suggestion of aligning with EU goods regulations as this would only apply to goods checked at the border and not to other agri-food rules such as pesticides.

Commenting on an EU document published last week which highlighted preparations for the UK leaving the EU without a deal, including the effect on citizens’ rights, Raab said,

“I think that’s a rather irresponsible thing to be coming from the other side. We ought to reassure citizens on the continent and here. There is obviously an attempt to try and ramp up the pressure.”  

On Monday, however, former UK Liberal MEP Andrew Duff gave a withering assessment of Raab’s remarks about the possibility of withholding the UK’s side of the Brexit divorce settlement, telling this website, “I am told he has a brain.  It is time for him to use it.”

The UK’s former Europe minister Denis MacShane was also critical of the new Brexit secretary, who recently replaced David Davis, telling The Parliament Magazine, “Raab has some legal training and must know May gave her word on the financial settlement for Brexit in the agreement with UK in December. Over centuries Britain has always honoured its financial obligations.”

The former Labour MP added, “His problem is not with EU27 or Michel Barnier but with his own Tory party and as a devout pro-Brexit MP he can work what to say to them.

“In the end, as with David Davis he is decorative, as all decisions and real negotiations will be done from Downing Street by the Prime Minister and her trusted officials.” 

Elsewhere, Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness, a Vice-President of the European Parliament, has hit out at May in the wake of her Irish border visit last week.

Her attack comes after May agreed to the regulatory alignment of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the event of a no deal Brexit, only then to backtrack on this within days, declaring “no British Prime Minister could ever agree” to such a situation.

The MEP said May had boxed herself into a corner with her Chequers agreement, dismissing the UK government white paper as “a starting point but not an end deal”.

McGuinness, an EPP group member, said, “I think the British Prime Minister set out red lines too early on and too deeply. We are prepared to show flexibility if the British Prime Minister can show flexibility.”

Two years after the referendum, May is still searching for a solution to the Irish border issue: pulling Northern Ireland out of the customs union and single market without creating a hard border with the Republic, which will remain a member of both.

Both Dublin and Brussels have vetoed any sort of physical infrastructure on the border, including smart cameras or even CCTV cameras which could help be used in remote customs checks.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Friday said that the UK government’s white paper for a future UK-EU partnership opened “the way to a constructive discussion,” adding however that the EU27 still have many questions about the plan. 

Barnier voiced concerns over the UK’s suggestion of aligning with EU goods regulations as this would only apply to goods checked at the border and not to other agri-food rules such as pesticides.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

Tags

Interested in this content?

Sign up to our free daily email bulletins.

 

Share this page

Tags

Categories

Related Partner Content

Religious refugees from China denied asylum in Europe
9 January 2018

Willy Fautré fears for the future of those fleeing religious persecution in China.

Thought Leader: 'Radical reform' needed in Montenegro before EU accession: Pavel Priymakov
20 January 2014

Major problems over good governance and the rule of law obstruct Montenegro's EU membership path, writes Pavel Priymakov.

Sustainable Development can only succeed if we work together, says Huawei’s Tony Graziano
27 December 2016

Paris agreement and the UN’s sustainable development goals are a testimony to the difference we can make when we join forces across geographical, sectoral and policy dividing lines argues Huawei...