Blog: EU bets Brits will pay — in Brexit and football final – POLITICO Europe

To date, the U.K. has paid its Brexit bill in full, the EU said Friday — but that won’t stop European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen from seeking payback on the football pitch.

Amid a discussion during the Commission’s midday press briefing about potential disputes over the roughly €47.5 billion financial settlement related to the U.K. quitting the EU, a British journalist asked von der Leyen’s spokesman if the president would support England or Italy in Sunday’s European Championship final.

Von der Leyen, a Belgian-born German citizen, is a self-professed Anglophile who lived in the U.K. and studied at the London School of Economics in the late 1970s. But Brexit means Brexit and the U.K. is now permanently offsides, so von der Leyen will be cheering for the Italians, the spokesman, Eric Mamer, said.

Mamer stressed that Brexit and the football championship had nothing to do with each other, though he conceded the inevitable connection by waiving his own standard rule in the press room of sticking to one topic at a time.

“That’s a completely unrelated issue, but I am happy to answer it,” he said. “Her heart is with the Squadra Azzurra,” using the Italians’ “Blue Squad” nickname. “So, she will be supporting Italy on Sunday,” he added.

Then he pivoted swiftly. “Now, back to our other business — the U.K. contribution.”

On that second point, another Commission spokesman, Balazs Ujvari, said the U.K. last month paid its first installment in response to an invoice sent in April for an initial tranche of the €6.8 billion due in 2021. Further payments are due in July, August and September, before an invoice goes out for the remainder of the annual balance.

“When it comes to 2021, there is an obligation for the United Kingdom to pay €6.8 billion,” Ujvari said. “And we have already informed the U.K. government about the payments that they have to do with regard to the first part of this year, and they have already in fact paid part of the amount concerned. Therefore, we have absolutely no indications at this point in time that the bill or the amount that we have calculated would be contested.”

The U.K. government had previously predicted that it would owe slightly less than €42 billion in connection with its prior obligations to the EU, but the Commission said that it had calculated the €47.5 billion figure in accordance with terms of the Withdrawal Agreement. So far, the Commission added, there has been no objection from London to Brussels’ math.

Daniel Ferrie, a third Commission spokesman and specialist on the Brexit file, noted that a committee exists for resolving any financial disagreements.

“We’re in contact with the U.K. government, the U.K. has started paying,” he said. “I don’t think we now need to go down a hypothetical route about what might or might not happen in the future.”

The Commission was not asked, and did not predict, how many goals Italy would score, or whether the match, in perhaps another Brexit metaphor, would be decided on penalties.

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