France insisted that the U.K. pay a Brexit bill of as much as 100 billion euros ($115 billion), underlining the hurdles to substantial progress in negotiations toward a new relationship with the European Union.
As the second round of talks wraps up in Brussels, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire used a hearing in the French parliament in Paris on Wednesday evening to take a hard line on what the EU believes the U.K. owes the bloc in terms of liabilities and obligations.
To drive his point home, he evoked the spirit of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher when she won a rebate on Britain’s payments to the central EU budget, complaining that the U.K. was losing out despite being one of the biggest contributors.
“I will say what Margaret Thatcher used to say: ‘We want our money back,’” Le Maire said, citing the 100-billion-euro figure that has been on the high end of the amounts touted. “We can always debate the amount, but the fact that the United Kingdom must pay what it owes to the European Union budget is a non-negotiable prerequisite at the start of the talks.”
Brexit Secretary David Davis returned to Brussels on Wednesday night and, with his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, will have lunch together and chair a meeting of negotiators who have spent the past three days thrashing out issues such as Britain’s financial obligations and the rights of European citizens in the U.K.