LUXEMBOURG: Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Friday that Britain must “pay” for its financial commitments to start Brexit trade talks, comparing it to someone trying to leave a bar after a round of beers.
Juncker’s comments come a day after EU negotiator Michel Barnier said there was a “disturbing deadlock” over the bill, and not enough progress for leaders to agree at a summit next week to open talks on future relations.
“The British are discovering, as we are, day after day new problems. That’s why this process will take longer than initially thought,” Juncker said in a speech at a university in his native Luxembourg.
“If you are sitting in a bar and if you are ordering 28 beers and then suddenly some of your colleagues is leaving… that’s not feasible, they have to pay, they have to pay,” Juncker said.
“Not in an impossible way, I am not in a revenge mood, I am not hitting the British. The Europeans have to be grateful for so many things Britain has brought to Europe, during war, after war, before war, everywhere and every time.
“But now they have to pay.”
The former Luxembourg prime minister added that a row over the rights of three million EU citizens living in Britain was “nonsense”.
“I don’t even understand this problem. Why not say easily, with common sense, which is not a political category as we know, that things will stay as they are?” Juncker said.
The EU says Britain has to make sufficient progress on three divorce issues—the bill, the rights of EU citizens in Britain, and Northern Ireland—before opening the trade negotiations London wants.
EU sources have put the budgetary commitments it says Britain owes at around 100 billion euros ($118 billion), while Britain says the true figure is about one-fifth of that.
EU leaders meeting in Brussels next week are expected to say that there is not likely to be enough progress until the next summit in December, but that the bloc should begin internal preparations for trade talks now. AFP