The U.K. will quit talks on leaving the European Union unless the bloc drops its demands for a divorce payment as high as 100 billion euros ($112 billion), Brexit Secretary David Davis said.
Britain’s negotiations would otherwise be plunged into “chaos,” and even a 1 billion-pound settlement would be “a lot of money,” Davis said in an interview published in the Sunday Times. The size of Britain’s exit bill, and which types of negotiations can begin before it has been agreed, has been a source of debate for weeks. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said the U.K. will have to pay about 50 billion pounds, while Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has signaled a figure between 40 billion euros and 60 billion euros. The Financial Times estimated the cost could balloon to 100 billion euros, while a study by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales put the cost at as low as 5 billion pounds ($6.5 billion). Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has said it will meet its commitments to the EU, but has questioned how Brussels officials reached their preliminary estimates.
“We don’t need to just look like we can walk away, we need to be able to walk away,” Davis said. “Under the circumstances, if that was necessary, we would be in a position to do it.”
Davis also said the negotiations, which are expected to begin on June 19, will be “fairly turbulent” and that he would reject any blueprint for discussions that requires the issues of the divorce bill, EU citizens’ rights and Northern Ireland’s border to be solved before talks can begin on future trade.
“The first crisis or argument is going to be over sequencing,” he said. May also weighed in on the Brexit bill, saying in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph that “money paid in the past” by the U.K. into joint EU projects and the European Investment Bank ought to be taken account in the final sum. “There is much debate about what the U.K.’s obligations might be or indeed what our rights might be,” she said. “We make it clear that we would look at those both rights and obligations.”