by Graham Pierrepoint
There’s barely a day that goes by in the UK press without some form of development – often fairly interesting – with regard to Brexit. The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has grabbed headlines in the country like no other – while also forcing a rather thin wedge between those who voted ‘remain’ and those who voted ‘leave’. There are, of course, those who didn’t vote, too – but the referendum was settled and the government – not least Prime Minister Theresa May – is keen to press on with negotiations ahead of the country’s proposed removal from the Union in March 2019. Comments made on either side of the debate, however – from May’s benches and those running the EU – seem to still be grabbing headlines – and, according to The Guardian, it appears that it is one Boris Johnson’s turn to face the quiet consternation of the Union’s representation.
Johnson – former Mayor of London and once at the head of the ‘leave’ campaign – had previously advised that those in charge of the EU could ‘go whistle’ if they were to consider presenting the UK with fees – a divorce bill, if you like – for leaving the EU. These comments have been met with concern by Michel Barnier, negotiator in behalf of EU during the process, who returned fire. “I am not hearing any whistling,” Barnier advised at a press conference, “Just a clock ticking.”
The exact cost of Brexit has been up in the air since the referendum first rolled out – and Barnier fully expects Britain to pay its dues before heading out. “It’s not an exit bill, it’s not a punishment, it’s simply settling accounts,” the negotiator advises, further adding “You can discuss this or that budget line, but they have to start by recognizing that they have entered into commitments.” Barnier made mention of the fact that the EU does not expect the UK to pay any more than that which they have ‘legally agreed to provide’.
Money is just one of several issues currently bogging down Brexit talks, with citizenship rights in the UK remaining a sticking point for negotiation. While the ideal leave date is set for March 2019, it will remain to be seen if a mutually beneficial deal can be thrashed out by then – or even before, or after. With the UK’s leadership still teetering on the brink, anything could happen in the next 20 months.