- Theresa May will meet European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday.
- The prime minister is expected to offer an increased offer for the Brexit financial settlement.
- Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, accused of “backtracking” as deadline for the divorce bill is loosened.
LONDON – Theresa May is set to assure European Council President Donald Tusk that Britain will pay around £40 billion for the Brexit divorce bill when the two meet in Brussels later today.
The prime minister is unlikely to put a firm figure on what Britain is prepared to pay. However, she will indicate that Britain will pay a substantially increased financial offer on the condition of the European Union allowing Brexit transition and trade talks to begin.
May is at the Eastern Partnership Summit to talk about moves to protect former Soviet bloc countries from the growing threat from Russia, and is expected to label it a “hostile state.”
The cabinet agreed to increase Britain’s offer for the divorce bill up to £40 billion on Monday evening, as the prime minister won the backing of key cabinet ministers at a meeting of her new Brexit sub-committee.
May will meet with European leaders at the summit to try and ensure that talks on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU can move onto the next stage.
Key issues such as the Irish border and citizens’ rights still need to be resolved ahead of the European Council meeting next month, where it will be decided whether “sufficient progress” has been made to allow Brexit talks to advance.
Last week Tusk mocked David Davis’s “English sense of humour” after the Brexit secretary suggested the EU must compromise in order to allow Brexit talks to progress.
The European Council president also said “much more progress” was needed on the Irish border and the financial settlement before negotiations could move to the next stage.
The government hope that an increased offer on the divorce bill will smooth the way for talks to move onto trade and transition in January.
The prime minister’s spokesperson told Sky News that it was not just a meeting to exclusively discuss the “divorce bill”.
“There are a number of issues which I’m sure they will want to discuss – the financial settlement, that will be one of them, also of course Northern Ireland and citizens’ rights,” they said.
Michel Barnier accused of “backtracking”
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has been accused of “backtracking” after his two-week deadline for progress on the financial settlement was loosened.
When asked at the beginning of November whether Britain would need to make clear its commitment to pay tens of billions of pounds to the EU within the next two weeks in order to move talks on, Michel Barnier replied: “My answer is yes.”
However, the European Commission has loosened the deadline for the UK, saying that there is no longer a “strict ultimatum” but needs to know what the UK is offering for the financial settlement before the European Council.
Conservative MP Kit Malthouse told City AM: “It’s good to see Barnier backtracking on what was already a rather ill-advised suggestion. The EU will always try to use time pressure to squeeze the UK and we shouldn’t fall for it.”