Marlies Hoecherl comments on the latest news reports in the immediate aftermath of Theresa May signing the letter to formally begin the Brexit process
Once again, the press on both sides of the channel are having a field day with scare mongering and creating an atmosphere of hostility. We hear about leaked documents, unnamed officials, punishment payments and divorce penalties with very little fact or evidence. In reality, the figure estimated by the European commission is not a penalty but is made up of a number of different obligations: there are binding budget commitments which Britain has agreed to as one of the 28 member states and which are payable after the exit, pension payments to EU officials, and certain contingent liabilities which may or may not become payable.
Realistically, the rather high amount of 60 Billion Euro is a negotiation stance, similar to the House of Lords Commission’s stance that not a penny will be payable. Both are probably incorrect and unrealistic. Rather than being hostile and divisive the most likely outcome will be a political settlement somewhere in the middle. Nobody wants to punish the other, but equally Europe cannot afford to let the UK leave on terms that are better than those enjoyed as a member of the Union and Britain needs to begin negotiations from a strong starting point. Let’s not forget that Europe is the UK’s biggest trading partner and the UK is an important market for the European member states. Both sides will want to continue to trade with each other.
Before we jump to premature conclusions, let’s wait a little and see where the negotiations will lead us.
The EU will take Britain to the International Court of Justice if it tries to walk away without paying an estimated £50bn ‘divorce bill’, a leak of its negotiating strategy says. The draft plan – obtained by a Dutch newspaper – threatens a long legal battle at The Hague to grab back what the EU regards as the UK’s liabilities for its 43-year membership.