Brussels has threatened to refuse to start trade talks with the UK if it fails to pay the £39 billion Brexit divorce bill in full after Boris Johnson suggested he would keep most of the cash if Britain crashes out of the bloc without an agreement.
Mr Johnson said yesterday that ‘strictly speaking’ the UK would not owe all of the money in the event of a No Deal split.
But Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, hit back today and said: ‘If the UK doesn’t pay what is due, the EU will not negotiate a trade deal.
‘After a “No Deal”, this will be a first condition of any talks. Britain is better than this.’
Today it emerged government lawyers had drawn up a ‘range of scenarios’ for the payment of the settlement with £7 billion representing the best-case scenario for the UK while the worst suggested all of it would have to be paid.
Mr Johnson raised the issue of the divorce bill in television interviews immediately before he met Donald Tusk for showdown talks in Biarritz at the G7 yesterday but then reportedly failed to bring it up during the sit down.
Meanwhile, EU officials said the ‘ball is really squarely and firmly in the UK court’ if a No Deal split is to be avoided after Mr Johnson suggested that what happens on October 31 ‘depends on our EU friends and partners’.
Mr Johnson insisted during the second day of the summit in Biarritz that the UK could ‘easily cope’ with No Deal as he dismissed concerns about potential food shortages.
He also said it was ‘touch and go’ whether a deal would be done as he claimed the chances of a fresh agreement with the EU ‘are improving’.
His comments came after he was given a Brexit boost by Donald Trump who said Mr Johnson was the ‘right man’ to take the UK out of the EU as he promised a ‘very big trade deal’ with the US would be agreed ‘pretty quickly’.
Boris Johnson, pictured this morning on the final day of the G7 summit in Biarritz, has faced criticism from EU figures after he said the UK would not pay the £39bn Brexit bill in full if there is a No Deal split
Guy Verhofstadt, pictured in Brussels on June 20, said failure to pay the bill in full would prompt the EU to refuse to start trade talks with the UK
Mr Verhofstadt said he believed ‘Britain is better’ than Mr Johnson’s suggestion that the £39bn would not be paid in full
The PM, pictured this morning meeting Egyptian president Abdel-Fatteh el-Sisi, was accused by Brussels of failing to present any new Brexit ideas when he met Donald Tusk yesterday
Sources said yesterday that the UK could pay as little as £7 billion of the Brexit divorce bill in the event of a No Deal departure at the Halloween deadline.
But today it was claimed that the £7 billion is actually the best-case scenario worked up by government lawyers.
Justin Welby ‘in talks to help stop No Deal’
The Archibishop of Canterbury has reportedly been asked to chair a series of ‘citizen’s assembly’ public meetings in a bid to stop a No Deal Brexit.
The Times reported that Justin Welby is in talks with a cross-party group of MPs about becoming involved in the meetings which could be held next month.
The meetings would see members of the public come up with recommendations to be given to the government about how to break the current impasse with the EU and bring the divided UK back together.
The worst case scenario envisages the EU pursuing the UK through the courts for the cash with all of the money ultimately having to be handed over after what would likely be a lengthy legal battle.
A source told The Times: ‘The £7 billion figure is the best-case scenario.
‘There’s a range of other scenarios where it’s far higher, including paying all of it.’
Mr Johnson said yesterday: ‘If we come out without an agreement it is certainly true that the £39 billion is no longer, strictly speaking, owed.
‘There will be very substantial sums available to our country to spend on our priorities. It’s not a threat, it’s a simple fact.’
Brexiteers are adamant that if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement then Britain should not pay any of the divorce bill.
But Brussels is equally resolute that all of the money should be handed over regardless of the terms of the UK’s departure.
The chances of a new Brexit deal being agreed appeared to increase last week after Mr Macron and Angela Merkel put forward a plan to give the UK 30 days to come up with alternatives to the Irish border backstop.
But Mr Johnson’s meeting with Mr Tusk appeared to illustrate just how far apart the two sides remain.
An EU official told the Financial Times: ‘The ball is really squarely and firmly in the UK court.
‘They have been telling the press they have new ideas and eventually they will come up. But they didn’t come up today.
‘The brutal fact is that there is nothing. Alternative arrangements have always been part of the agreement — but we still don’t know what they look like.’
The Prime Minister appeared to be enjoying his first foray onto the world stage since winning the keys to Downing Street in July. He is pictured today ahead of a meeting with Shinzo Abe
Mr Johnson sat down with the Japanese prime minister this afternoon as the G7 summit in Biarritz started to wind down
Mr Johnson and Mr Tusk met yesterday lunchtime for crunch Brexit talks. The pair agreed to meet again next month at the United Nations General Assembly.
Mr Johnson has vowed to take Britain out of the EU with or without a deal on October 31 and yesterday he insisted the UK could ‘easily cope’ with No Deal.
‘What I can tell people, and as I said a few weeks ago on the steps of Downing Street, I think we can get through this,’ he said.
‘This is a great, great country the UK, we can easily cope with a no-deal scenario.
‘And I know that’s what people want.’
The PM also said he believed it was ‘highly unlikely’ there would be food shortages ‘of any kind’ after a chaotic split from Brussels.
He met Australian counterpart Scott Morrison this morning the day after England’s stunning Ashes cricket victory.
The Prime Minister is also holding face-to-face meetings with Japanese leader Shinzo Abe, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and outgoing Italian premier Giuseppe Conte.