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BRUSSELS – Britain and the European Union are locked in a bitter fight over the divorce bill London will have to pay upon Brexit, the nation leaving the power bloc. The standoff fuels concerns that the two parties will never settle on a deal, which will lead to a messy—and expensive—breakup.
The United Kingdom insists it has no obligation to meet all the EU’s financial demands, while the power bloc says that without clarity on the bottom line, it will refuse to heed Britain’s demand to quickly open talks on a future relationship which would be vital for a smooth transition once Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.
The two sides remained deadlocked over a number of issues beyond Britain’s financial commitments, including the rights of citizens in each other’s areas and the Irish border.
“We did not get any decisive progress on any principal subjects,” Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said at a press conference after the conclusion of the third round of separation talks.
After the British government triggered the two-year separation proceedings in March, the EU said it will not start talking about a future relationship unless key issues like financial commitments are dealt with. These include everything from staff pensions to commitments made to developing countries.
Britain, for its part, says the EU is taking a “maximalist” approach to such issues, but wants to talk about trade as soon as possible as its actual departure date gets nearer.
In comments after four days of talks, Mr. Barnier said it would only be logical that Britain pays for commitments it made as far back as 2014 and not leave the remaining 27 EU nations footing the bill.
“It would not be fair,” he said. “After this week, it is clear the UK does not feel legally obliged to honor its obligations after departure.”
According to some estimates, Britain’s bill to cover commitments it has made could be around $71 billion. Many in the British government have balked at anything that high. Other estimates are even higher.
“We have a duty to our taxpayers to interrogate it rigorously,” Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator David Davis said, highlighting a gap of billions of euros separating the two.
Mr. Barnier said the dispute posed fundamental questions. “With such uncertainty how can we build trust and start discussing a future relationship.”
In light of the minimal progress made, Mr. Barnier said he was not yet in a position to advise EU leaders meeting in October to throw open the talks to include future relations between them.
Mr. Barnier said “we are far from seeing sufficient progress.” The notion of “sufficient progress” can only be officially decided by EU leaders, without British Prime Minister Theresa May.
As well as the divorce bill, the EU wants to see progress on guarantees for citizens’ rights and issues related to the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland before any trade talks can begin.
While conceding some of the discussions on Ireland had proven “fruitful,” Mr. Barnier warned Britain that with “every passing day we move closer to the date of departure.”
Mr. Davis conceded that “significant differences” remain and called on the EU to show “flexibility” to break the logjam in talks. Mr. Barnier said the EU was ready to intensify the pace of the negotiations.
The initial elation of Brexit supporters and shock of its opponents, on display after the July 2016 UK referendum that highlighted British urgency to sever its EU ties, has given way to a slow grind of bureaucratic untangling.
Regular readers of The Real Truth understand that this separation was certain to take place eventually—based on the history of the British peoples, as well as the contrasting paths that led many other European nations to their current position in the continent’s super state.
To learn much more about this history, and what lies ahead for the United Kingdom, read Editor-in-Chief David C. Pack’s free book America and Britain in Prophecy.