Martin Selmayr Is Right, The Divorce Bill Must Be Paid No Matter The Brexit Deal

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It pains to have to point out that Martin Selmayr is in fact correct here. Britain owes money to the European Union and that money must be paid. It doesn’t matter what the divorce arrangements are concerning Brexit, it’s just one of those amounts of money which must be coughed up. For, it’s not actually a divorce bill at all. We’ll have to pay it if we stay in the EU, we’ve got to pay it if we leave. Thus it’s not in fact a divorce bill at all:

Martin Selmayr, the feared and powerful secretary-general of the European Commission, has told British MPs at a Brussels meeting that the UK must pay the £39 billion Brexit bill even if there is a no-deal exit . Mr Selmayr, who is the most senior EU civil servant, warned on Monday that the future relationship between the UK and EU could be jeopardised by a refusal to pay the financial settlement after no deal. The warning could be interpreted as a thinly veiled threat that, in the event of a no deal, a furious EU would refuse any free trade negotiations unless Britain settled its accounts.

Despite the contempt that Selmayr is held in by all right thinking people he does have a point here. The UK signed up to a contract which said that we’d pay for certain things. If we stay in the EU then we’ll have to pay for those things. If we leave we’ll still have to pay for those things. Not because they are costs of being in or out, but because they’re sums that we agreed we would pay.

Or, as we’ve pointed out before, there is in fact no divorce bill:

The correct arrangement being that we’ve been a member of a club for some decades now. We have a certain intertwining of finances to pay for certain things, some scientific cooperation, the cash stuffed into the maws of farmers and so on. There are budgets, a cycle for deciding upon them. We’re leaving before the end of that current cycle and we have previously promised that we’ll pay up to the end of that planned period. Sure, we owe some money simply because we’ve previously said we’ll pay it.

We’re civilised people, we don’t welsh on our debts, that’s that then. There is, other than just not annoying the foreigners, no connection at all between this discharge of our promises and whatever a future trade deal is. Even the European Union itself has made this point – the bill is the bill whatever subsequently happens.

And as to what the deal might be after we leave? Well, if we welsh on our debts then people are going to be looking more than a little askance at any of our future promises, aren’t they?

This is entirely different from what the size of that bill should be. Whether we should get back the capital sums to which we’re arguably due. Say, the accumulated profits of the European Investment Bank – our answer is yes, others differ – and the embassies, parliament buildings we’ve helped pay for.

But yes, there are some sums of money that we’ve promised to pay which we’ve not as yet paid. We’re going to have to pay them. Selmayr – spit – is right.

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Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

We’ve agreed to pay a price for the ‘benefits’ (ahem) of EU membership. If there’s a transition period during which we continue to receive some of those benefits, we should continue to pay part of that price. But if we leave with no deal, we get no benefits, so why would we need to pay anything further?

ian parkinson
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ian parkinson

“This is entirely different from what the size of that bill should be”

I think we should pay everything owed, I just happen to think that the number owed is zero (having read the Lords report I would say we are owed money). I doubt selmar would agree.

Rhoda Klapp
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Rhoda Klapp

On conclusion of a trade deal with the EU, we could revisit how much we are going to pay. As it is, they are not negotiating in good faith, so no payment should be made until they do.

Q46
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Q46

‘Well, if we welsh on our debts then people are going to be looking more than a little askance at any of our future promises, aren’t they?’

Excellent!

That means the political deadbeats can’t sign the British public up to things like the EU and other arrangements that please the political slimeballs and leave the British public to carry the cost and consequences later after said slimeballs are enjoying their later careers on the boards of companies, or as consultants and advisors or as officials on the UN or EU payroll, or other organisations like the IMF, World Bank.

rosh3000
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rosh3000

Your missing the main point: “UK signed up to a contract”. By contracts you mean treaties under EU Law i.e under the Lisbon treaty. Article 50 says all treaties are void when a member leaves. This is backed up by the house of lords legal review on the issue.

That is why the EU need another legal text under UK law to make us liable for it.

Christian
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Christian

I’m quite sure the EU would not want to claim money from the UK to which they were not legally entitled. It appears that the drafting of A50 releases a departing member from its financial obligations if no withdrawal agreement can be reached. By its existence the clause also seems to remove the obligations that would otherwise arise under the Vienna Convention. Nevertheless there is clearly a legal dispute about this, and it ought to be capable of being settled in court. Unfortunately, the EU insists that the only court it will recognise is the ECJ, which clearly lacks independence… Read more »

rosh3000
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rosh3000

You make a lot of good and interesting points, However, “I’m quite sure..” Whats legal and what politically popular doesn’t always go hand in hand because as it cant borrow it will have to ask other nations for more money which is never popular in the best of political climates. Jurisdiction is fundamental to the rule of law and thus without it there is no legal basis for treaties to apply. That is why the EU need the withdrawal agreement to be legal legislation approved by UK parliament. Note how they say in the withdrawal agreement pay in “principle” not… Read more »

Davidsb
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Davidsb

I think that the fag packet on which Mr Junker and Mr Barnier wrote down their calculations should be released to the British public, who could then comment on whether the esteemed EU negotiators may possibly have made any errors in their no-doubt detailed workings.

Jonathan Harston
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Jonathan Harston

It’s welch not welsh.