Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Theresa May faces Tory backlash over plans to pay up to £40bn in Brexit divorce bill




Theresa May faced a backlash from Tory MPs tonight over plans to pay up to £40billion in a Brexit divorce bill.
A host of senior Conservatives blasted plans to stump up a “ransom” to Brussels after a crunch private meeting of her Brexit 'War Cabinet'.
Mrs May triggered mounting opposition to a hefty divorce bill, amid claims she is set to offer another £20billion on top of what she has already signalled she is willing to pay.
Voters would “go bananas” if the UK forked out £40billion, warned former minister Robert Halfon.
He told the BBC: “If we start saying that we’re going to give £40 to £50 billion to the EU, I think the public will go bananas, absolutely spare.
“I voted Remain because I believe in alliances of democracies in an uncertain world.
“But we voted to leave, the public want to leave, and I cannot believe that the public would accept such a huge amount when we need money for our schools, our hospitals, our housing, and many other things.
“So I think that is going to be very difficult if it is going to be that sum.”
Fellow Tory Nigel Evans said the Government cannot afford to “play Santa Claus”.
He said: “Yes we will have obligations but we’re not going to pay ransom money simply to leave the European Union.”
Cash saved by leaving should be “spent on British nurses not on Brussels bureaucrats”, he added.
Backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg tweeted: “Now is not the time to weaken.”
Following the crunch Cabinet committee meeting, a Downing Street source said tonight: “It remains our position that nothing’s agreed until everything’s agreed in negotiations with the EU.
“As the Prime Minister said this morning, the UK and the EU should step forward together.”
The row unfolded as EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said his priority was to “settle the accounts accurately” before switching to trade talks.
He warned Britain will be stripped of the benefits of the single market and banks will lose key arrangements allowing them to operate in the bloc because of Brexit.
Brussels wants to offer the UK its “most ambitious free trade agreement”, he told a conference.
But there was no question of Britain “cherry picking” bits of the single market it wanted to keep.
Mocking Britain’s attitude to talks, he said “the UK knows the rules” because it helped draw them up.
Principles of the market were “non-negotiable”, he insisted.
Mr Barnier added: “We take note of the UK decision to end free movement of people.
“This means, clearly, that the UK will lose the benefits of the single market. This is a legal reality.”
Meanwhile Whitehall officials were tonight accused of failing to plan for Brexit.
Chiefs from the Home Office, UK Border Force, HM Revenue and Customs, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs were giving evidence to the Commons Public Accounts Committee on the potential impact of quitting the EU.
Conservative backbencher Heidi Allen told them: “I don’t hear any vim and vigour from any of you.
“It feels to me like the world’s not going to change at all.
“I’m not hearing from a single one of you any dynamic response to what extra stuff you’re doing to prepare for the various scenarios there might be.
“Everything I’m hearing is, ‘Oh it’s all just going to be the same and we don’t expect anything to change’.”
The officials rejected the accusation.





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