EU chief dismisses May's Brexit divorce bill offer as 'peanuts'

British prime minister and Conservative party leader Theresa May speaks at the declaration at the election count at the Magnet Leisure Centre on June 9, 2017 in Maidenhead, England. Photo: Matt Cardy/ Getty Images.
  • Theresa May’s “generous offer” to the EU dismissed as “peanuts.”
  • EU Parliament president says the UK is not being “realistic” about what it owes.
  • Antonio Tajani mocks Conservative divisions over Brexit.
  • The EU Council will decide this week whether the next phase of negotiations can begin.

LONDON — Theresa May’s offer to pay a €20bn divorce bill for leaving the EU has been dismissed as “peanuts” by the president of the European Parliament.

Antonio Tajani told Newsnight on Tuesday that the prime minister’s self-described “generous offer” to pay a limited sum to cover limited financial commitments already made by the UK was “not realistic.”

“We need to put the money on the table,” he told the BBC’s Evan Davis.

“We need our money back as Mrs Thatcher said 30 years ago.”

Tajani suggested that the prime minister may have to treble her offer before the EU are willing to agree Britain’s future relationship with the bloc.

“€20 billion is peanuts. The problem is 50, 60, this is the real situation.”

Tajani also mocked growing divisions within May’s cabinet over Brexit. 

“We want to know what the UK wants to do,” he said.

“This is the problem It is not very clear. We are united. At the moment there is a unity. Where is the unity in the United Kingdom? Because there are many different positions. We have only one position. We have only one negotiator. It is very difficult to know what the United Kingdom wants to do. That is the problem.”

He added: “We are realistic. The UK government is not realistic.”

Watch Tajani: May’s offer is “peanuts” 

Tajani’s comments follow a day in which senior members of May’s Cabinet revealed an open split within the cabinet over whether Britain could walk way from Brexit negotiations without a deal.

Brexit secretary David Davis told MPs that it was “sensible” to prepare for the possibility that there is no deal at the end of Brexit negotiations, while the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told the BBC that no-deal would “not be the armageddon that some people project.”

However, the Home Secretary Amber Rudd said that the prospect of leaving the EU without any kind of deal would be “unthinkable.”

“It is unthinkable there would be no deal. It is so much in their interest as well as ours,” Rudd told Parliament’s Home Affairs committee.”

“We will make sure there is something between them and us to maintain our security,” Rudd said.

The row comes within days of the EU Council’s decision on whether Brexit negotiations will be allowed to move to discussions on Britain’s future relationship with the EU.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said last week that talks had reached “deadlock” over Britain’s financial settlement and recommended that the next phase of talks are delayed until at least December.

May will fly to Brussels to take part in the EU Council summit. However, discussions on whether Britain has made “sufficient progress” in the negotiations will not take place until Friday after May has left.

A spokesperson for the prime minister said on Tuesday that May’s Florence speech had achieved “momentum” in the talks and insisted that negotiations were now “accelerating.”

“We want not one euro more, not one euro less” – @EP_President @Antonio_Tajani says UK government is “not realistic” on money #newsnight
— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) October 17, 2017

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