Sunday 25 August 2019

PM warns chances of leaving the EU with a deal are now 'touch and go' as he tells Tusk that UK will not pay £39bn divorce bill without one and Donald Trump says he's the 'right man' for the job

Boris Johnson warns Donald Tusk Britain will NOT pay full £39 billion Brexit divorce bill
Boris Johnson warned Donald Tusk today that Britain will not pay all of the £39 billion Brexit divorce bill if there is a No Deal split on October 31 as the two men met for showdown talks in Biarritz (bottom right). The Prime Minister made clear to the president of the European Council that Brussels may get just £9 billion - or even as little as £7 billion - 
if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement at the Halloween deadline. Speaking immediately before the meeting, Mr Johnson told ITV: 'If we come out without an agreement it is certainly true that the £39 billion is no longer, strictly speaking, owed.' Pictured main, clockwise from top: President of France Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and U.S. President Donald Trump - who today called Mr Johnson the 'right man' to take the UK out of the EU.

But his Brexit divorce bill threat risked souring relations as the terms of Britain's departure from Brussels remained in the balance. 
An EU official said after the meeting that nothing substantive or new had emerged during the talks, with the pair due to meet again at the United Nations General Assembly next month.
It came after Donald Trump hailed Mr Johnson as the 'right man' to take the UK out of the EU and predicted the US and Britain will be able to strike a 'very big trade deal' and 'pretty quickly' once Britain has left the bloc. 
Mr Johnson welcomed the positivity from Mr Trump as they met this morning, but warned the US President that the NHS will be 'completely off-limits' during post-Brexit trade talks. 
Speaking after their meeting, Mr Johnson said Mr Trump was 'gung-ho' about doing a deal and that the US wanted one finalised within a year as he added: 'I'd love to do it within a year, but that's a very fast timetable.'
Speaking to broadcasters before his meeting with Mr Tusk, Mr Johnson said the terms of the UK's departure from the EU were ultimately in the hands of Brussels
The UK PM also risked a row as he challenged Mr Trump over the wisdom of his trade war with China. 
Mr Johnson said he preferred 'trade peace' to hiking tariffs in comments likely to have been poorly received by the White House. 
Mr Johnson's meetings with Mr Trump and Mr Tusk came amid growing speculation that he could call a snap general election within weeks after it emerged he is planning to slash fuel duty at an emergency No Deal budget, paving the way for an early poll in October.
The likelihood of a snap election appeared to increase today as a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times put the Tories 12 points ahead of Labour on 33 per cent in Westminster voting intention. 
Mr Johnson's threat to withhold most of the £39 billion in the event of a chaotic split from Brussels came after Number 10's lawyers concluded that, in such a scenario, the total payment should be slashed to £9 billion - or even as little as £7 billion. 
That is because they argue the UK would not have to hand over any of the money associated with the transition period agreed as part of the original deal. 
Speaking in Biarritz, Mr Johnson confirmed that he would withhold the bulk of the £39 billion Brexit divorce bill if there is not a deal.
'I think what the entire European Union understands is that if we come out without a deal that the £39 billion is not pledged,' he told Sky News.
He also said it would be the EU's fault if there is a bad break in just 67 days time. 
'The people who are going to be responsible for No Deal are not in the UK, we don't want No Deal,' he said. 
A No 10 source said last night: 'Boris wants to see fair terms for the UK's exit in return for the billions we are meant to pay.' 
A Government source said: 'The PM has always said it was a huge mistake for [Philip] Hammond to agree to the divorce bill before any Brexit deal had been finalised.'
The source added: 'If there is No Deal, Brussels will need to organise a whip round – they'll need to plug a huge hole from our contribution and they'll need billions' to keep Ireland afloat.'
Brussels is adamant that Britain must pay all of the £39 billion bill regardless of the terms of its departure.  
Mr Johnson's second day at the G7 summit got off to a good start as he met Mr Trump for formal talks and the US President predicted he would be a 'great prime minister'. 
The two men had been effusive in their praise for each other before meeting and that trend continued today as Mr Trump said Mr Johnson would not need his help to take Britain out of the EU. 
Mr Trump said: 'He needs no advice, he is the right man for the job. I have been saying that for a long time. It didn't make your predecessor very happy, but I have been saying that for a long time.'
Mr Johnson jokingly said Mr Trump was 'on message there' as the US President then described the UK's EU membership as an 'anchor' and predicted a bright future for the special relationship once the UK has split from Brussels. 
He said: 'We are having very good trade talks between the UK and ourselves. We are going to do a very big trade deal, bigger than we have ever had with the UK.
'At some point they won't have the obstacle, they won't have the anchor around their ankle because that is what they had.'  
Mr Trump said a deal could be done 'pretty quickly' as he also claimed Theresa May had 'stymied' trade talks when she was PM.
Mr Johnson said he expected there to be 'tough talks ahead' as he tried to lay the groundwork for a swift post-Brexit trade deal, having warned the NHS will be 'completely off limits' during negotiations.
Asked if he had made clear his views on the NHS with regard to trade talks, Mr Johnson said: 'Not only have I made clear that, the president has made that very, very clear. There is complete unanimity on that point.' 

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