Michel Barnier: UK must pay what it has committed to before Brexit deal is agreed

Catherine Neilan
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Tick tock, Boris (Source: Getty)

Michel Barnier has insisted the UK must pay the so-called divorce bill before Brexit can go ahead, laughing off comments made yesterday by Boris Johnson.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator this morning told press he didn't hear any whistling - only the sound of a clock ticking. That was in reference to the foreign secretary's jibe yesterday that the EU could "go whistle" for what he called an "extortionate" Brexit divorce bill.

But Barnier reiterated his stance, saying there would be no further negotiations until this bill - which is to settle previously agreed expenses such as the EU's ongoing budget, liabilities for loans to other member states, pension contributions and other costs - was agreed.

In order for the new relationship to work, trust is required and that trust means "settling accounts", he said.

Barnier dismissed Nigel Farage's claims this bill was a ransom, saying: "We are not asking the UK for a single euro or a single pound more than they have committed to providing."

Speaking the day after Brexit secretary David Davis gave MPs an update of negotiations, Barnier said he was seeking clarification on a number of British positions, saying his team could begin to act as soon as they received them. He urged the UK government to do this before the second round of talks which are due to start later this month.

Barnier committed to working "even over the weekend" and on Bastille Day (14 July), a national holiday in France.

He added that the "best" option would be for the UK to remain part of the EU. The second-best would be to adopt the Leichtenstein model, which would see the UK go outside the customs union but remain inside the single market, albeit with tougher immigration control.

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