London – Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to offer to settle EU demands for Britain’s Brexit “divorce bill” in a speech in Florence on Friday, but her offer is unlikely to satisfy EU officials, British media reported Wednesday.
A senior adviser to May had contacted the offices of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other EU leaders to “offer to fill a post-Brexit EU budget hole of at least 20 billion euros (24 billion dollars),” the Financial Times reported.
Britain wanted to reassure other EU nations that May’s speech would include the financial offer, the newspaper quoted officials as saying.
But a spokesperson told dpa that Merkel’s office had not been informed of the offer.
The Daily Telegraph also reported that May would “signal that Britain is prepared to keep paying into the EU budget in 2019 and 2020 during a so-called transition phase.”
It said May’s offer in Florence would mean that Britain would continue to make a net annual contribution of 10 billion euros for two years after Brexit, which is scheduled to take effect in March 2019.
According to the reports, May hopes the offer will break an impasse in the Brexit negotiations and allow them to enter a planned second phase next month to discuss future trade relations between Britain and the European Union.
But The Telegraph said that it would “not be enough to break the deadlock.”
20 billion euros is just the tip of the iceberg
“In fact, 20 billion euros is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the EU is concerned,” it said.
The Financial Times said that EU officials had claimed that Britain had liabilities of up to 100 billion euros, “which would net out at 60 billion euros when British receipts are stripped out.”
“A 20 billion euros net offer would allow the EU to avoid reopening its long-term budget plan prematurely, and would cover unpaid projects Britain signed off before its 2019 exit,” it said.
“It would not, however, cover long-term liabilities or spending promises made during the transition period.”
The FT said it expected “a guarded response” to the offer from other EU members, since “negotiators are clear it would be insufficient.”
“Transition payments do not cancel the bill,” it quoted an unidentified senior EU diplomat as saying.
We have one focus on the European Union
Ahead of Friday’s speech, speculation of a new rift in May’s Conservative Party has been fuelled by a controversial, 4,000-word “vision for Brexit,” published by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Saturday.
The Times said May would call a special cabinet meeting on Thursday, where she would “seek to bind Boris Johnson to her vision of Brexit” ahead of the Florence speech.
Asked about the reported differences late Tuesday in New York, where May and Johnson are attending UN meetings, May told the BBC: “Boris and the cabinet are clear that we have one focus on the European Union.”