Britain’s Brexit minister David Davis dismissed his EU counterpart Michel Barnier’s comments that little progress has been made in Brexit talks as “silly” in a BBC TV interview on Sunday.
“Bluntly, I think it looked a bit silly because plainly there are things that we’ve achieved,” David Davis, Britain’s Brexit Minister, said.
The comments came after a week of Brexit talks in Brussels where little progress was made on the divorce bill – and Britain made it clear it was frustrated that talks on trade had not even started.
And rubbing salt in the wound, Barnier said on Saturday that it’s his job to “educate” Britain about why London needs to pay the EU a divorce bill.
Previously European Commission President Juncker has estimated the bill will amount to around 60 million euros.
But Davis has dismissed this figure, although he said Britain was likely to end up paying money into the EU budget after Brexit for access to cross-border schemes like space and nuclear research.
The divorce negotiations also concern what happens to the Irish border where the UK and the EU will meet, and citizens’ rights after Brexit.
The Sunday Times said British Prime Minister Theresa May was preparing to pay a Brexit divorce bill of up to 50 billion pounds ($65 billion) to the EU. But a spokeswoman at May’s office told Reuters the report, which cited an unnamed source “is simply not true.”
Last week May tried to douse speculation over her leadership by saying she wanted to continue as prime minister beyond the next parliamentary election, not due until 2022, dismissing expectations she would quit as early as 2019.
But the Sunday Times said “two or three more” Conservative lawmakers has since signed up to a letter calling on her to quit, bringing the total to about 25. At least 48 are needed to trigger a leadership contest. A spokeswoman at May’s office declined to comment.
May warned lawmakers that Britain could be faced with a Brexit “cliff edge” if they failed to back her EU repeal bill, as reports suggested momentum was growing within her party to unseat her.
May failed to win a clear mandate at a snap election in June and only has a slim majority in parliament that rests on an agreement with a smaller party. She remains vulnerable if pro-European lawmakers in her Conservative party team up with other parties to vote down legislation or support amendments.
In next week’s parliamentary debate, the main opposition Labour Party is planning to propose several changes to the repeal bill with a view to keeping Britain in the single market and customs union during a Brexit transition period after 2019, according to The Times.
On Saturday, May’s deputy advised Conservative lawmakers against doing anything that would increase Labour’s chances of returning to power, while May said the bill was the best way to ensure a successful Brexit.
“(It is) the single most important step we can take to prevent a cliff-edge for people and businesses, because it transfers laws and provides legal continuity,” she said in comments provided by her office.