Theresa May to offer EU €20 billion divorce bill after Boris backs down from resignation threat

May JohnsonLeon Neal - WPA Pool/Getty

  • Prime Minister Theresa May will offer the EU a €20 billion divorce bill in her key Brexit speech.
  • The offer will be made in an attempt to restart progress in stalled Brexit negotiations.
  • Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson backs away from resigning from the cabinet after his intervention in the Brexit process.

LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May is reportedly preparing to offer the EU a €20 billion divorce bill in her key Brexit speech on Friday after Boris Johnson backed down from his threat to resign from the cabinet.

Several European leaders, including Angela Merkel, have been contacted by May's top EU adviser Oliver Robbins so they can be reassured that the prime minister's speech in Florence will contain the financial offer, the Financial Times newspaper reported.

Although falling far short of EU expectations, the government hopes that this offer will restart progress in the stalled Brexit negotiations, and allow talks to move onto a future relationship between the UK and EU before the end of the year.

The €20 billion would fill the gap created in the EU's budget by Brexit until 2020, ensuring that no member state would have to increase its contributions.

The EU has previously suggested that the UK would owe about €60 billion after Brexit, but the offer from the government would be seen as progress.

One EU diplomat told the Financial Times: "We will at least have something to talk about, but it is not where the landing zone is."

May will brief the cabinet on the details of her Florence speech on Thursday, which is seen as an attempt to force the EU to allow talks to move on to the next stage.

"A nest of singing birds."

Johnson, the foreign secretary, has insisted that he will stay in the cabinet, which he called a "nest of singing birds" after May pledged to not use her speech to push for a future UK-EU relationship that was similar to Switzerland's with the bloc.

On Friday night he published his vision for a  "glorious" Brexit in which he said the UK should not pay any money to Brussels in order to access the single market after a transition period.

The foreign secretary favours a Canadian-style free trade deal with the EU over the "Swiss-style" relationship that Chancellor Philip Hammond reportedly supports. Switzerland pays for access to the single market.

On Monday, May rejected the idea that there is a "binary choice" between the two models after Brexit.

Johnson told reporters in New York that he would not be resigning, saying: "We are working together, that is the key thing, to make sure that Britain can take advantage of the opportunities of Brexit."

Commenting on the reports that he was close to walking out of the cabinet, he told the Guardian: "I am mystified by all this stuff."

The foreign secretary said: "Not me, guv. I don’t know where it is coming from, honestly. It feels to me like an attempt to keep the great snore-athon story about my article running. I think that is what is going on."

It is understood that May's speech will avoid discussing the finer details of a future UK-EU relationship, which would leave the door open for either of the options reportedly favoured by different members of the cabinet.

Downing Street denied that the prime minister had adjusted her speech to allow for concessions to Johnson to be written in.

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