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Dominic Raab: UK could withhold Brexit divorce bill without trade deal

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Dominic Raab
Britain’s Brexit Secretary
Dominic Raab.

Reuters

  • Britain could refuse to pay the £39 billion Brexit
    divorce bill unless it gets a trade deal from the EU, according
    to Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab.
  • He told The Sunday Telegraph that there should be “some
    conditionality” between the bill and a trade deal, but this
    goes against the advice of Britain’s spending
    watchdog.
  • Raab also said the government is not bluffing when it
    says that crashing out of the EU with no deal would be better
    than a bad deal. 

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has become the latest member of
Theresa May’s government to threaten to withhold the £39 billion
($51 billion) divorce bill from the EU unless the UK gets its way
in negotiations.

Speaking to The Sunday
Telegraph
, 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.

“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,” Raab said.

“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.”

It is not the first time the British government has refused to
pay the divorce bill. Raab’s predecessor Davis and Prime Minister
May herself have previously said they would withhold the bill if
the EU denies Britain a trade deal. Davis also made threats over the payment in
relation to the Northern Irish border.

But the brinkmanship conflicts somewhat with the advice of the
government’s spending watchdog, the National Audit Office. Sir
Amyas Morse, the auditor general, told lawmakers in April that the
divorce payments will become legally binding as soon as the UK
signs a Withdrawal Agreement.
 This is because the
payments are tied to Britain’s two-year transition agreement with
the EU.

“The payments would fall for us to pay no matter what under
international law,” Morse said. “The reason why that would be is
the payments are primarily in respect of continuing membership
for the extension period — they don’t relate directly to whatever
the future relationship may be.”

Raab also told The Sunday Telegraph that the prime minister is
not “bluffing” when she says that crashing out of the EU with no
deal would be better than a bad deal. “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,” he said.

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