Britain will walk out of Brexit talks unless Brussels drops its demand to charge €100bn (£86bn) to leave the EU, David Davis has warned.
The Brexit Secretary said negotiations would be plunged into “crisis” from the start because the EU refused to discuss a trade deal until Britain agreed to pay the “Brexit bill”.
Following requests from several member states, EU negotiators revised their initial calculations to increase the liabilities the UK must help pay for.
They include payment of farm subsidies and EU administration fees, which could continue after the UK officially leaves the Union until 2020.
Mr Davis also said he regarded even “€1bn as a lot of money” as he warned other member states would have to shift their position if they wanted to see progress.
“We don’t need to just look like we can walk away, we need to be able to walk away,” he told The Sunday Times.
“Under the circumstances, if that were necessary, we would be in a position to do it.”
When asked if he would storm out of the meeting, he said: “Wait and see.”
Wary of some in the bloc who might want to see Britain punished for leaving, Prime Minister Theresa May has said that unless she gets the kind of deal she wants from Brussels, she will withdraw without any accord.
Mr Davis also rejected a demand for every EU citizen who has lived in the UK to get full rights to live, work and claim benefits.
“How on earth would you manage such an exercise?” he asked.
The Conservative manifesto, launched last Tuesday, confirms Britain could still continue to make payments to the EU after it leaves the bloc.
In a separate interview, Ms May told The Telegraph she wanted past contributions to the bloc to be taken into account when working out one of the thorniest issues of the divorce: how much Britain should pay to Brussels when it leaves.
“There is much debate about what the UK’s obligations might be, or indeed what our rights might be in terms of money being paid in the past. We would look at those, both rights and obligations,” she said.
Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier told his Commission bosses the EU would focus on securing citizens’ rights, financial issues and borders, and that he hoped for a deal on these issues between October and December.
If that timetable holds, the EU would be ready to start discussing the shape of its future trade relationship with Britain and a transition period leading to it between December 2017 and spring 2018.
“There are plenty of people in the European Union who want this to succeed. There may be some who want it to fail,” Mr Davis said.
“I’m of the view that the likeliest outcome is the outcome we are looking for.”
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