Britain is being asked to continue funding the EU’s foreign aid programme after Brexit, it emerged last night.
The EU’s demand for a £90billion ‘divorce bill’ was branded ‘absurd’ as details of the claim emerged at a press conference in Brussels.
Its chief negotiator Michel Barnier said there had been ‘no decisive progress’ at the third round of Brexit talks this week.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, right, criticised the progress of the Brexit talks after the British team described attempts by Brussels to charge the UK £90 billion as ‘absurd
David Davis, pictured, clashed repeatedly with the EU team over the divorce settlement
Mr Barnier, right, accused Britain of wanting a nostalgic deal with the European Union
He then revealed some of the EU’s financial demands, including that funding for foreign aid, green projects and refugee programmes continues after Britain has left. It also emerged the UK could be asked to keep paying into the EU’s coffers during any ‘transitional deal’.
Mr Barnier suggested he would try to block progress on a new EU-UK trade deal unless Britain agrees to meet the demands.
But Brexit Secretary David Davis, who clashed repeatedly with Mr Barnier during the press conference, made it clear the UK did not accept the EU’s claim, saying: ‘We have a duty to our taxpayers to interrogate it rigorously.’
He rebuked Mr Barnier for suggesting British Brexit demands were driven by ‘nostalgia’ for EU membership, saying: ‘I wouldn’t confuse a belief in the free market for nostalgia.’
YUK! TONY BLAIR SCHMOOZES HIS EUROPEAN PALS
Puckering up, Tony Blair staged something of a ‘love in’ yesterday as he greeted Jean-Claude Juncker with a kiss.
The Europhile former Prime minister greeted the European Commission president like an old friend at a Brussels lunch.
Tony Blair was welcomed by European Commission president Jean Claude Junker to Brussels yesterday morning
However, the timing of the meeting seemed designed to upstage a distinctly frosty press conference between Brexit Secretary David Davis and his counterpart Michel Barnier – which was taking place in the same building.
Foreign secretary Boris Johnson went for a spin on a Royal Navy rigid inflatable boat
Over in Nigeria, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson appeared to be puckering up too – but was merely being buffeted by wind as he helped pilot a rib with the Royal Navy. A unit based in Lagos is training the Nigerian navy to tackle the threat of pirates.
The apparent deadlock will increase pressure on Theresa May to appeal directly to German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron to begin trade talks in defiance of Brussels. But Mr Barnier issued a stern warning that any attempts to go over the commission’s head on the issue would fail.
He struggled to contain his fury that the UK had produced a legal analysis rejecting the basis for the EU’s financial claim – and threatened to delay discussions of a future trading relationship unless Britain agrees to pay for a number of schemes. It follows four days of negotiations that brought little progress – Brussels is demanding concessions on the divorce bill so that trade talks can begin, but Mr Davis blamed the bloc’s inflexibility for the deadlock.
Mr Barnier also warned that the UK’s request for access to the single market without accepting the supremacy of the European Court of Justice was ‘impossible’.
He criticised Britain’s plan to have EU standards cut and pasted into UK law and be automatically recognised by the EU. ‘You cannot be outside the single market and shape its legal order,’ he said.
Mr Davis responded: ‘We have proposed pragmatic solutions to prevent this disruption and we urge the EU to be more imaginative and flexible in their approach to withdrawal on this point.’
On the divorce bill, Mr Barnier said it ‘wouldn’t be fair’ for Britain not to pay for ongoing commitments undertaken with other members. ‘In July, the UK recognised it has obligations beyond the Brexit date but this week the UK explained it felt its obligations were limited to the last payment of the current EU budget,’ he added.
The EU negotiator listed commitments he claimed Britain had agreed to that extend beyond the end of the current budget period in 2020 – and rounded on the country for refusing to honour them.
He demanded that the UK agree to pay towards green infrastructure, foreign aid for Africa and the Caribbean, and loans to Ukraine.
Among examples of green projects in a European Commission report were bridges for wildlife to cross the road, ladders for fish and green roofs for nesting birds.
Permeable pavements, urban forests and plans to restore bogs were also suggested in the report.
Mr Barnier also demanded Britain continue providing funds for Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific through the European Development Fund.
The EU set out a paper in June listing financial commitments it thinks Britain should agree to pay towards as part of the divorce bill. These includes refugees in Turkey, a trust fund for the Central African Republic and Colombia, and the European Asylum Support Office.
But Mr Barnier said yesterday: ‘After this week it is clear that the UK does not feel legally obliged to honour these obligations after its departure.’
Discussions on trade were meant to begin in October if Brussels decided ‘sufficient progress’ had been made on the rights of EU citizens in Britain, the Irish border and the divorce bill.
Mr Barnier yesterday suggested he would try to block trade talks unless progress was made, saying: ‘There has been no decisive progress on any of the principle subjects … Time is passing quickly and was short to start with.’
Last night Brexit backer Jacob Rees-Mogg said: ‘If a member state that was a net recipient of funds left, would the EU be rushing to give it a cheque? Its demands are absurd and no sensible government could yield to them.’
WHAT THEY WANT US TO PAY FOR
European Commission Green Infrastructure Strategy: The EU has pledged nearly £6billion to cover green projects, which might include bridges to help wildlife cross roads and ladders to help fish traverse rivers.
The European Commission wants extra money for its green infrastructure policy
Foreign aid: EU members contribute £12billion to the European Development Fund – the main instrument for distributing payments to African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. Previous contributions have been spent on trapeze lessons in Tanzania, a study on coconut development and Jamaica trips for EU spin doctors.
It also wants Britain to fund foreign aid projects across the globe including a study on coconut development and Jamaica trips for EU spin doctors
Loans to Ukraine: Brussels has pledged £10.3billion in long-term loans to Ukraine after Russia annexed Crimea and threatened the country.
Brussels is seeking cash to provide loans to Ukraine following the Russian dispute
Refugee facilities in Turkey: The EU initiative cost £2.76billion in 2016-7 to help the country cope with the number of Syrian refugees it hosted.
The EU also wants money for a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey, pictured
DAVIS WINS FREE HEALTHCARE GUARANTEE FOR BRITISH EX PATS
Millions of British citizens living in the EU will have their right to free healthcare protected.
Following talks in Brussels, the European Union has agreed to allow them to retain access to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
The card allows them to receive healthcare in the country they live in as well as other member states from the date of Brexit.
David Davis as agreed a deal which will see Europeans living in Britain on the date of Brexit to continue receiving free health care as well as millions of Britons living abroad
Brexit Secretary David Davis said citizens from the other 27 European Union states would also get the same benefits in the UK.
He added: ‘Both sides have agreed that we should at least protect existing healthcare rights and arrangements for EU27 citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU.
‘That is good news, for example, for British pensioners in the EU.
‘It means that they will continue to have their healthcare arrangements protected both where they live and – when they travel to another member state – to be able to use an EHIC card.’ The EHIC card is accepted by 31 members of the European Economic Area, Switzerland and Australia.
However, the EU has not agreed to the UK’s demand for EHIC rights to apply to Britons who move to EU countries after Brexit.
Nor would it agree to continue the current scheme that grants free healthcare for British tourists visiting EU countries. It said that the benefit was conditional on EU membership.
British officials said: ‘We were clear that we think in principle that on the point of exit the EHIC scheme should be retained.’
The agreement was hailed as an example of ‘concrete progress’ by Mr Davis and is one of the few deals struck so far in the separation talks.
The British negotiating team said the agreement made this week was ‘significant progress and something that matters to a number of people’.