Michel Barnier threatened to educate British voters about the ‘serious consequences’ of their Brexit vote today.
The EU’s chief negotiator claimed Britons still did not know what they had done.
Mr Barnier’s incendiary new intervention came after a week in which the Brexit negotiations were deadlocked and he publicly launched barbs at Brexit Secretary David Davis.
Mr Davis today dismissed claims Britain was prepared to settle its divorce bill at £50billion as ‘nonsense’ and ‘completely wrong’.
And he lashed Brussels for ‘silly tactics’ in refusing to negotiate on the future trade deal before resolving the divorce.
Michel Barnier (pictured at Thurday’s press conference with David Davis) threatened to educate British voters about the ‘serious consequences’ of their Brexit vote today
Speaking at a conference in Italy on Saturday, Mr Barnier said he did not want to punish the UK for leaving but said Brexit would be ‘an educational process’ for the British.
‘I have a state of mind – not aggressive… but I’m not naïve,’ he told the Ambrosetti forum.
‘There are extremely serious consequences of leaving the single market and it hasn’t been explained to the British people. We intend to teach people… what leaving the single market means.’
Reports in today’s Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Times both said Theresa May has secretly agreed to the large exit payments to the EU and plans to announce the climbdown after the party conference season in October.
David Davis (pictured today on the BBC) has insisted reports Britain will pay a Brexit bill of almost £50billion were ‘nonsense’ and ‘completely wrong’
Mr Davis and his negotiators spent last week rebuffing an EU demand of around £90billion in exit charges.
The Brexit Secretary told the Andrew Marr Show: ‘They have set this up to try to create pressure on us on money, that’s what it’s about, they are trying to play time against money.’
Comparing Brussels’ demands to a hotel bill presented to a guest on checking out, Mr Davis said: ‘We are going through it line by line and they are finding it difficult because we have got good lawyers.’
He said Mr Barnier ‘wants to put pressure on us, which is why the stance this week in the press conference – bluntly, I think it looked a bit silly because there plainly were things that we had achieved’.
Mr Davis insisted he was not branding Mr Barnier personally ‘silly’, adding: ‘I said the commission would make itself look silly’.
The Brexit Secretary dismissed as ‘nonsense’ claims that the UK would pay a £50 billion fee to exit the EU.
In an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr (pictured Mr Davis accused Brussels of deliberately delaying trade talks in an effort to convince the UK government to pay more
The ‘strict position’ was that there was ‘no enforceable’ legal basis for the UK to pay money to Brussels but ‘we are a country that meets its international obligations – but they have got to be there’.
Those obligations ‘may not be legal ones, they may be moral ones or political ones’, he said.
It emerged today that Mrs May is hoping to keep details of the UK’s EU divorce bill a secret until after the Conservative Party conference – to avoid a damaging revolt by Brexit supporters.
It emerged today that Theresa May (pictured at church in Maidenhead today) is hoping to keep details of the UK’s EU divorce bill a secret until after the Conservative Party conference
The Mail on Sunday understands that the Prime Minister has been advised that Britain is likely to have to fork out up to €50 billion – £46 billion at current exchange rates – as the only way to break the deadlock of the Brexit talks.
But anticipating a backlash from her party’s anti-EU wing, Mrs May hopes to wait for the Tories’ Manchester conference to conclude on October 4 before announcing the details.
That would give her just two weeks before a critical summit takes place at which the EU will determine whether enough progress has been made on agreeing the divorce bill to allow trade talks to start.
It came as Mrs May last night urged rebels in her party not to obstruct the EU Withdrawal Bill – which will pave the way for our exit – when it starts it progress through the Commons this week. She described it as ‘the single most important step we can take to prevent a cliff-edge for people and businesses.’
Mrs May added: ‘We’ve had frank negotiations with the Commission, and we’ve travelled the globe to establish the trading relationships of the future. Now it is time for Parliament to play its part’.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer (pictured on the BBC today said Labour would vote to stop handing ministers a ‘blank cheque to pass powers’ if its concerns were not addressed
Sir Keir denied Labour had U-turned on continuing membership of the EU single market in an interview with Andrew Marr (pictured)
Mrs May is desperate for the Manchester conference to act as a springboard for her to reassert her authority over a party still bruised by June’s General Election disaster.
In other developments today, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Labour would vote to stop handing ministers a ‘blank cheque to pass powers’ if its concerns were not addressed.
Speaking on BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show, Sir Keir said the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – set to be debated on Thursday after MPs return to Westminster following a summer break – gave ministers ‘very wide powers’.
Asked if his party would definitely vote against the Bill if Brexit Secretary David Davis does not sit down and accept his points, he said: ‘We have said that, I flagged these points up at the beginning of summer and said if you don’t address them we will be voting against it.
‘Now we haven’t reached that stage yet but I have been very, very clear – whilst we accept the result of the referendum we are not giving a blank cheque to the Government to do it in whichever way it wants because it is not in the public interest.’
Sir Keir denied Labour had made a ‘U-turn’ over its policy on keeping Britain in the EU’s single market and customs union during a transition period after March 2019.
He said it was instead a ‘development of our policy’, and said: ‘On the question of what are the terms of the transitional arrangements, Labour has never said anything other than we retain the benefits of the single market and the customs union.’
Sir Keir said Britain could attempt to be in ‘a’ customs union with Europe, but said it could not be in ‘the’ customs union as a non-EU member.
His comments are at odds with Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson who said membership of the single market and customs union ‘might be a permanent outcome of the negotiations’.
But Sir Keir said Labour wanted a ‘partnership’ with the bloc that ‘retains the benefits of the single market and the customs union’.