Should The EU Pay A Bill Too?

A Brexit turnaround is a distant possibility with the ongoing negotiations.

The Brexit bill plays an almost predominant role in the negotiations. Although the EU constantly emphasizes that there is a possibility that the UK could pay a bill for leaving the EU, apparently, a turnaround may be expected in the divorce. As Boris Johnson claims, should the EU pay the UK, or the opposite?

The UK has several reasons to demand money from Brussels, besides the fact that the UK has tremendously contributed to European assets. That the UK must bear costs of Brexit of up to £84bn for settling its liabilities when it permanently leaves the EU, according to Johnson, is “absurd”. Johnson has also accused the EU’s officials of unfair and “ruthless” negotiation mentioning the leak of details of a recent meeting between Theresa May, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. Johnson states that the UK invested a lot of money in the EU’s assets and that now the bill should be calculated and shared between the two sides. Therefore, when they make a definite calculation, at the end, the EU should pay the UK and not the opposite.

There is some truth. Indeed, the UK has funded assets in the EU for many years, as other members did too. Therefore, already estimated, its share in the European Union assets is much higher than the EU officials claim. The UK is entitled to £9 billion ($11 billion) in the European Investment Bank and around £14 billion ($18 billion) in other EU’s properties, cash, and investments, and that is not all. It is another point, that Michel Barnier has a different calculation.

It is evident that tensions between Brussels and London will continue to grow, especially after the latest leaking of information. Theresa May even has accused the EU of influencing the UK’s upcoming general elections. There is also disagreement on whether the UK should pay access to the EU’s single market. David Davis, the Brexit secretary, said that future payment for access to European markets is a good idea, which is also supported by Philip Hammond. However, there is evident opposition to the idea from Johnson as it is, and Davis, who rejects the idea of a Brexit bill amounting to €100 billion ($108.9 billion), with sufficient warning of him withdrawing from the negotiations, if provoked. Junker also repeats that negotiations cannot start while the UK agrees to pay a £60 billion ($77.6 billion) divorce bill, while Barnier has already warned May to prepare for a hard negotiation. Although the EU could demand that the UK pays its share into the EU budget until 2022, it will probably demand from the UK just to pay a £45.5bn Brexit bill. There are multiple points being contested in the bill. Some seem genuine enough to be waned, while others seem truly contestable. For example, claims that the UK’s ownership of assets in the EU in the form of buildings and investments, may seem unimpeachable; but liabilities in the form of payables and other accounting issues to be resolved.

It is very possible that Johnson’s words only a tactic to achieve better conditions on the negotiations. It is evident that both sides would play their games and wait for how the other side will retort to often contradictory statements. Yes, the negotiations will be hard, but it is realistic to expect that they will find an intermediate solution that will be good for all. What belongs to the UK and the EU, would remain just that.

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