No Brexit divorce figure before next EU summit

Brussels – Britain’s minister in charge of Brexit, David Davis, does not anticipate putting a figure on Britain’s so-called ‘divorce bill’ – its pending financial obligations to the European Union – before the next EU summit in mid-October. “There won’t be a number by October or November,” Davis told BBC radio on Tuesday.

Regulating trade relations with the EU

Brussels has refused to start talks on a post-Brexit relationship with London until the immediate issues of Britain’s withdrawal, including its ‘divorce bill’, have been settled. A majority of British voters decided to leave the European Union in a referendum on June 23 last year. Official documents to start the process were filed in March, meaning the country is set to exit the bloc in March 2019.

Davis made his comments as Britain on Tuesday published of a series of position papers on the Brexit negotiations. Among other proposals, London has asked to regulate trade relations with the EU after the Brexit through a temporary customs union.

Britain is not allowed to sign new trade deals with other countries as long as it remains an EU member, but according to the proposal, Britain would be able to start work on new trade deals during the interim phase. “It would be much more sensible, we think, if there was a shortish period in which we maintain the current arrangements so that we can continue to sell our 230-billion-a-year of goods and services.”

Davis said that “shortish period” would likely be two years or slightly shorter.

“The clock is ticking”

The European Commission welcomed the position paper, which it said was the first response from Britain to nine positions the EU had published before the summer. The commission called the documents “a positive step towards now really starting phase one of the negotiations.”

“The clock is ticking and this will allow us to make progress,” an EU spokesman said, adding that the commission would study the position paper “carefully” ahead of the next negotiation round, planned for the week of August 28.

Davis admitted that not everything in the position paper was clear, calling it “constructive ambiguity” that he said was typical of negotiations.