London, May 3 (IANS) Britain won’t pay a 100-billion euro ($109 billion) “divorce bill” to leave the EU, said Brexit Secretary David Davis on Wednesday, as the two sides clashed over the issue.
He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that the country would pay what was legally due, in line with its rights and obligations, but “not just what the EU wants”.
“It’s gone from 50 billion, to 60 billion to 100 billion,” Davis said during the radio interview. “I know that’s not where we’ll end up.”
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said there was no desire to punish Britain but “its accounts must be settled”.
Publishing his Brexit mandate, Barnier said the EU would “put all its efforts” into reaching a deal but said negotiations must start as soon as possible after “10 months of uncertainty” and suggested the outcome of June’s general election would not change anything.
While approaching the process in a “cool-headed and solution-oriented” manner, Barnier said it was an illusion to think it would be concluded “quickly and painlessly” or that there would be “no material impact” on lives.
On Wednesday, the Financial Times reported that the likely bill, on the basis of its formula, had risen sharply from 60 billion to 100 billion euros.
Davis said the negotiations had not started in earnest but he indicated Britain would set down a marker when it came to talks over the divorce settlement.
“We are not supplicants,” he said. “This is a negotiation. They lay down what they want and we lay down what we want.”
Various figures ranging from 50 billion to 100 billion euros had been knocking around, Davis said, but he had “not seen” any official numbers.
When asked whether the figure was acceptable, he replied: “We will not be paying 100 billion”.
David also told the BBC that the 100 billion euro figure should be viewed “with a pinch of salt” and the negotiations would not “end up there”.
He added that it was up to the two sides to agree and he did not want the European Court of Justice to become involved.
On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May declared that she would be a “bloody difficult woman” in the Brexit talks.
“During the Conservative party leadership campaign I was described by one of my colleagues as a bloody difficult woman. And I said at the time the next person to find that out will be Jean-Claude Juncker (EU chief),” May said in an interview.
This is published unedited from the IANS feed.