BRUSSELS: The European Commission warned on Wednesday that Britain will have to pay its outstanding share of the existing EU budget even if it leaves the union without a withdrawal agreement.
In a statement on preparations for Britain’s departure, Brussels said it would not enter talks on future trade until London honours “the financial obligations the UK has made as a member state”.
Under the Brexit withdrawal agreement agreed last year between outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May and her fellow EU leaders, Britain would owe the union approximately 39 billion (around 44 billion euros).
This sum would cover budget commitments up through a transition period at the end of next year, but the British parliament has refused to ratify the treaty and Brexit has been delayed until October 31.
May is due to step down and some of the challengers to replace her, including frontrunner former foreign minister Boris Johnson, have said they are ready to leave Europe without an agreement on that date.
This would mean, the EU statement said, there would be no transition period next year — which officials estimate would save Britain around 12 billion euros on the bill — but the balance would be outstanding.
Johnson has suggested that withholding the funds could give Britain leverage in the divorce talks, but Wednesday’s EU statement said no such negotiations would begin if the bill is not honoured.
Labour says it will not allow a no-deal Brexit
Britain’s opposition Labour Party is not prepared to let Prime Minister Theresa May’s successor pursue a “disastrous” no-deal Brexit, the party’s spokesman said on Wednesday.
Labour is using a vote on Wednesday to try and seize control of the parliamentary agenda later this month to give lawmakers the chance to introduce legislation aimed at preventing the suspension of parliament or a no-deal exit.
“Boris Johnson and a series of other Tory (Conservative) leadership candidates ... have made clear they are prepared to see a no-deal exit from the European Union which quite clearly, even under the government’s own assessments, would be disastrous for the British economy,” Labour’s spokesman said.
“We are not prepared to allow that to happen.”
British opposition lawmakers failed Wednesday in their latest attempt to ensure the U.K. can’t leave the European Union without a divorce deal.
The House of Commons voted 309-298 against setting aside a day later this month to try to pass legislation that would prevent a no-deal Brexit.
“This is a disappointing, narrow defeat. But this is just the start, not the end of our efforts to block ‘no deal,’” said Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer.
The governing Conservative Party is holding a contest to replace Prime Minister Theresa May, who quit as party leader last week after Parliament three times rejected her divorce deal with the EU.
Some of the 10 contenders, including front-runner Boris Johnson , say if they become prime minister, they would take Britain out of the EU on the twice-extended withdrawal date, now set for Oct. 31, with or without an agreement.
Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2019