EU Watch — The UK is reportedly toying with the option of refusing to pay its debts to the European Union after Brexit if Brussels continues its hostile treatment over a future free-trade deal, according to three senior U.K. officials.
Under EU law, Brussels cannot agree a trade deal with the U.K. until it has left the trading bloc. However, this places the UK in an awkward position as the a Prime Minister will have to sign the “divorce” papers without any idea of how the future relationship will look. The EU, resolute in its position, appears unable to see how this is unpalatable to British MPs, who believe there needs to be some form of agreement on how the relationship will look after March 2019.
A senior official, who has refused to be named, has said that Brussels needs to realise that without an idea of what the future relationship will look like, the UK Parliament will vote down the exit treaty and therefore un-do two years of negotiations.
In order to negate this possibility, the UK negotiating team is eyeing up a contingency plan to hold back approximately £42bn in Brexit payments, if the European Union refuses to give the U.K. the trade deal it wants. Members of Theresa May’s team, frustrated by the obstinacy of Brussels, have reportedly met in private to discuss how such a plan could be put into practice if needed.