Boris Johnson was on the brink of resignation yesterday over concerns that Theresa May would yoke Britain to Brussels post-Brexit in a “Swiss-style” relationship that would see it obliged to maintain payments for – limited – access to the single market. Since then, he has stepped back from the brink after the Prime Minister reassured him that no more large payments would be made after Britain finishes its transition phase, and that he was doing a “good job” in cabinet.
That doesn’t mean Mr Johnson has won outright, as Mrs May has had to keep her Chancellor on board at the same time by promising that Britain would still make its full contribution into the EU budget in 2019 and 2020 during transition, which amounts to around €20bn in total. This offer, set to be outlined in her keynote Brexit speech on Friday in Florence, may have the cabinet’s backing, but the key question – I note online – is whether Michel Barnier can work with it.
Unfortunately for the British side, our Europe editor Peter Foster suggests that it “will not be enough to break the deadlock”, as the EU would view €20bn as the “tip of the iceberg”. Britain would not be able to get away with paying just that sum, as Brussels would want the British to honour matters like its commitments made while a member of the bloc and its share of pensions for Eurocrats, which could see the eventual fee end up much higher. “If the UK wants to retain good relations with the EU then – political posturing aside – the final settlement is likely to be in the region of €40 to €50bn,” Foster estimates. Brexiteer ministers accept that Britain must pay its dues, but are they ready to have it pay that much?
In the meantime, EU chiefs are indulging in some fighting talk ahead of Mrs May’s Florence speech, with EU commissioner Phil Hogan accusing her foreign secretary of being “completely out of the loop” on Brexit and “behaving strangely”. That may not seem like rhetoric from a side ready to compromise in negotiations.
Philip Johnston suggests that the prime minister should be inspired when she speaks in Florence by the city’s master strategist Niccolo Machiavelli. “The strong leader has to focus on what can be achieved, not on an unrealisable ideal outcome,” he writes in today’s paper. “Mrs May is not temperamentally inclined to confrontation, but needs to be clear about where we are going. Indecision must end. No speech would be better than a fudged speech.”
Source: for MORE