EU boss Juncker says UK will 'have to pay' for Brexit trade talks

Greg Heffer, Political Reporter

EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker has insisted the UK will "have to pay" if Brexit negotiations are to progress to trade talks.

Amid the ongoing deadlock in discussions over Britain's financial settlement, the European Commission President warned the UK it must reach an agreement on money before being able to negotiate its post-Brexit relationship.

Mr Juncker also suggested Brexit will "take longer than initially thought" as he said the remaining 27 EU member states will not sanction the start of the second phase of talks at a Brussels summit next week.

"We cannot find for the time being a real compromise as far as the remaining financial commitments of the UK are concerned," Mr Juncker said, while speaking to students in his native Luxembourg.

"As we are not able to do this we will not be able to say in the European Council in October that now we can move to the second phase of negotiations.

"Things have to be done, one has to deliver. If you are sitting in a bar and if you are ordering 28 beers, and then suddenly some of your colleagues is leaving and he is not paying, that is not feasible.

"They have to pay, they have to pay, not in an impossible way."

But Mr Juncker insisted he is "not in a revenge mood" and "not hating the British", adding: "The Europeans have to be so grateful for so many things Britain has brought to Europe."

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Despite noting "progress" over the issue of citizens' rights post-Brexit, Mr Juncker asked: "Why are we discussing nonsense like that?"

He added he didn't understand why both sides don't say "things will stay as they are" after the UK's exit, continuing: "Citizens have rights because they are citizens, not because there is a Brexit issue which has to be discussed."

Responding to Mr Juncker's comments, Downing Street said the Prime Minister had made clear in her recent Florence speech the UK would honour its financial obligations.

"We will honour our commitments - the commitments that we have made during our period of membership of the EU - but the detail is for negotiation," a Number 10 spokeswoman said.

On Thursday, EU lead negotiator Michel Barnier said he will not recommend the EU27 authorise Brexit talks move on from key divorce issues - the financial settlement, citizens' rights and Northern Ireland - when they gather in the Belgian capital on 19 October.

Mr Barnier cited a "very disturbing" deadlock over the UK's financial settlement for being unable to judge "sufficient progress" has been made on withdrawal issues.

But the European Commission official did offer some hope by claiming he would explore "ways of getting out of this deadlock" in time for the European Council summit on 14 December.

The EU27 have demanded "sufficient progress" be met on divorce issues before allowing the second phase of negotiations to begin.

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Brexit Secretary David Davis has stressed some withdrawal discussions can only be concluded once the framework of Britain's future relationship with the EU is known, and it is understood UK officials won't budge on the financial settlement until there is some slackening of the EU27's stance.

Further hope was offered to the UK Government after it emerged the EU27 might start "internal preparatory discussions" on Britain's post-Brexit relationship from this month.

Included in leaked draft conclusions for the 19 October European Council summit, the document revealed Mr Barnier could soon be invited to discuss the EU27's position on the second phase of negotiations ahead of the potential sanctioning of trade talks at December's summit.

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