‘We won’t pay £39bn divorce bill’ says Brexit Sec Raab


IN A Sunday Telegraph interview, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab threatened to withhold the £39 billion ($51 billion) divorce fee from the EU, unless the UK gets its way in negotiations.

Raab said Britain could choose not to pay the severance settlement after leaving the European Union in March next year, if the country does not get a trade deal. Raab, who replaced David Davis earlier this month, said some ‘some conditionality’ between the £39 billion payment and a trade deal is needed.

He said: ‘Article 50 requires, as we negotiate the withdrawal agreement, that there’s a future framework for our new relationship going forward, so the two are linked. ‘You can’t have one side fulfilling its side of the bargain and the other side not, or going slow, or failing to commit on its side. So I think we do need to make sure that there’s some conditionality between the two.’

Raab added that the prime minister was not ‘bluffing’ when she says that crashing out of the EU with no deal would be better than a bad deal. He said: ‘The ball is now in the EU’s court, and don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty more negotiations, I’ve made that clear, but if they show us the same level of ambition, energy, pragmatism, this deal gets done in 12 weeks.’

Raab later told the Andrew Marr show he would return to Brussels for talks on Thursday and strain ‘every sinew’ to get ‘the best deal’. But a responsible government puts plans in place in case talks do not end well, he added.

Labour shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey told Marr: ‘No deal should not be an option.

‘A “no deal” would be absolutely catastrophic for industry. ‘We have to work very hard across all parties in Parliament to make sure that is not an option.’

Raab told the programme he would be back in Brussels this week for negotiations and if the ‘energy, ambition and pragmatism’ the UK brought to negotiations was reciprocated, a deal would be done in October. He noted that 80% of the withdrawal agreement was already settled.

But he said preparations such as hiring extra border staff were being made because ‘any responsible government’ would make sure plans were in place ‘in the event of negotiations not reaching a positive outcome’.

Meanwhile, Tory MP David Davis, whose resignation from May’s top team was followed by that of former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, told The Sunday Express the government should ‘start again’ on withdrawal plans.

Leading Tory MP Anna Soubry has accused PM May of capitulating to ‘the forces of darkness’ in her party and warned that, as a result, she and her fellow Remainers may not back the final deal the prime minister obtains from Brussels.

The ex-minister accused Jacob Rees-Mogg’s faction of pursuing a hard Brexit that would cost ‘hundreds of thousands of jobs’ and said they were ‘now running Theresa’ because the PM was forced last Monday to accept their amendments to the Customs Bill.

In an interview with The Guardian, Soubry, who has called for a government of national unity, said: ‘Since the referendum, the forces of darkness have taken over and they have continued to take over and this week if there was ever any doubt who was running this government it was quashed.’ Soubry said more Labour MPs would be needed for May to see off any Tory rebellions: ‘She needs the likes of Caroline Flint to get it through.’