Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable has lashed out at hard line Brexit “martyrs” who view economic pain as a price worth paying to break away from Brussels. Cable accused them of “masochism” and claimed older Brexit voters with views “colored by nostalgia from an imperial past” had imposed their will on a younger generation more comfortable with the European Union.
Meanwhile, Whitehall sources sought to play down speculation that Theresa May would be prepared to pay a Brexit bill of £36 billion as part of a deal to strike a comprehensive free trade agreement with Brussels.
The so-called “divorce” bill has been one of the main stumbling blocks in Brexit negotiations between the Government and Brussels.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that the Government will only agree to pay the sum if the EU treats it as part of a deal on future relations – including the comprehensive trade agreement sought by the Prime Minister.
The EU’s stance is that trade talks cannot begin until significant progress has been made on the financial settlement, citizens’ rights and Northern Ireland.
The newspaper quoted a senior Whitehall source as saying the EU’s position was that the fee should be 60 billion Euro (£54 billion), but the “actual bottom line” was 50 billion Euro (£45 billion), the UK’s position was 30 billion Euro (£27 billion) and “the landing zone is 40 billion Euro (£36 billion) even if the public and politicians are not all there yet”.
A senior Government source revealed that “no such figure has been agreed” while another Whitehall source said it was “speculation”.
Officials at the Brexit department would not comment on the report but referred to David Davis’ acknowledgement that the Government would work with Brussels “to determine a fair settlement of the UK’s rights and obligations.
Sir Vince, 74, added that the “self-declared martyrs” appeared to be “predominantly elderly”. The martyrdom of the old comes cheap, since few have jobs to lose”.