Brexit: Expert discusses EU’s ‘punishment’ in 2018
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And Jayne Adye stressed clarity for vital given the bloc’s track record of using “every loophole” to gain leverage over Britain – warning Brussels was hellbent on “bleeding our bank account dry”. Ms Adye, the director of the Get Britain Out campaign, was motivated to act by a joint statement issued by the UK and the EU on April 27 after a meeting of the Financial Provisions Specialised Committee. Both sides “noted positive engagement on the second formal reporting package under the Withdrawal Agreement which was provided by the European Commission at the end of March”, the statement explains.
However, figures were notably absent, with Ms Adye therefore submitting a Freedom of Information request asking what was contained within the package.
The response, from HM Treasury and dated May 26, says: “You asked to receive the documents in the reporting package from the EU to the UK.
“We consider the information engages the exemption at section 27(1)(b) where disclosure would be likely to prejudice relations between the UK and any international organisation.
”This is a qualified exemption and we are required to balance the public interest between disclosure and non-disclosure.
Boris Johnson’s Government has refused to say how much the UK will pay Ursula von der Leyen’s EU (Image: GETTY)
Theresa May, Mr Johnson’s predecessor as Prime Minister (Image: GETTY)
It adds: “While we accept there is a general public interest in transparency to improve public understanding of Government we consider that disclosing information that would be likely to prejudice relations between the UK and the European Union and impact on the protected space in which free and frank discussions take place would not be in the public interest.”
Ms Adye said: “Nearly every week we hear new reports of changes to the amount of money the UK will be required to pay the EU.
“Yet the Government hide behind protocol when asked to tell the public how they will spend our money!”
Some elements contained within would inevitably be sensitive, she acknowledged – but asked why they could not be redacted, rather than the entire document being withheld.
Brexit negotiators Lord David Frost and Michel Barnier in Brussels (Image: GETTY)
Ms Adye added: “The UK public deserve to know what is being negotiated on our behalf, especially when it pertains to billions of pounds, at a time when the country is in mountains of debt and trying to pull itself out of an economic crisis.
“Anyone who claims we have a working relationship with the EU has clearly not been paying attention, as they continually try to undermine the UK at every turn.
“So to use this as an excuse, simply does not hold weight.
She warned: “If these documents will not be released to the public, it raises more and more concerns among Brexiteers of hidden costs which will come back to bite us in the future.
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Boris Johnson has been vociferous about the importance of the UK taking back control (Image: GETTY)
An excerpt from HM Treasury’s FOI response (Image: HM Treasury)
“The EU has shown they will use every loophole or advantage they can to get leverage over the UK and they will not give a second thought to bleeding our bank account dry.
“It is time these and all our dealings with the EU were given greater clarity and scrutiny, because we simply cannot continue along the current path of uncertainty and doubt.
“These negotiations are taking place on our behalf and the Great British Public deserve to know what is going on.”
The amount the UK will pay the EU after Brexit has been the subject for considerable debate.
Brexit timeline (Image: Express)
The figure of £39 billion – the supposed “divorce bill – was cited frequently in the wake of the 2016 referendum.
However, it remains unclear whether there are ongoing financial commitments.
An investigation by the pro-Brexit think tank Facts4EU last week questioned why the value the EU’s staff pension pot had soared by almost £15billion in the last year of the EU’s membership.
Moreover, Facts4EU’s report pointed out there was no fixed amount contained within the withdrawal agreement negotiated by former Prime Minister Theresa May in terms of the total amount the UK was liable for.
EU budget factions mapped (Image: Express)
Advice published by the House of Commons Library Research Service states: “There is no definitive cost to the settlement.
“The final cost to the UK will depend on future events such as future exchange rates and EU budgets.
“The Office for Budget Responsibility estimate that the net cost to the UK may be £34 billion.”
Express.co.uk has approached HM Treasury for comment.