Boris Johnson appeared to perform a u-turn on previous comments that the EU could ‘go whistle’ over its Brexit divorce bill, telling the BBC that Britain would ‘meet its obligations’ over any money owed.
The Foreign Secretary claimed his previous comments were in relation to the sums of money that had been suggested, rather than the concept of paying itself.
However Mr Johnson in fact made the statement in answer to Conservative MP Philip Hollobone.
Mr Hollobone, after stating that the UK had made a net contribution of £209 billion to the EU since joining, said: ‘Will you make it clear to the EU that if they want a penny piece more then they can go whistle?’
Mr Johnson replied: ‘He makes a very valid point and I think that the sums that I have seen that they propose to demand from this country seem to me to be extortionate and I think ‘to go whistle’ is an entirely appropriate expression.’
In an interview on BBC Radio 4, he said: ‘I think I was being asked then about some very large sums of money, I think 100 billion Euros or pounds, that the EU Commission suggested we were on the hook for and that’s not a figure I recognise.
‘I think that some of the sums that I have seen seem to be very high and of course we will meet our obligation, we are law-abiding, bill-paying people.’
When pressed, Mr Johnson said the UK would ‘meet our obligations as we understand them’.
However, he would not be drawn on what figure would mark the shift between Britain paying its way and telling the EU to ‘go whistle’, saying: ‘I am not going to get into a financial haggle with you.
‘This is a matter for our excellent negotiators and what we want them to do is get the best possible value for the UK taxpayer and that is what they are going to do. We should pay not a penny more, not a penny less, of what we think our legal obligations amount to.’