According to a leaked draft of an EU document, the EU could take Britain to international court The Hague if the UK refuses to pay its liabilities when leaving the Union. The plan is a response to a threat from Theresa May to walk away without either paying or striking up a new deal with the EU if Brexit negotiations turn sour.
It is not just the Prime Minister who has discussed such an abrupt exit. A number of MPs from the Conservative Party have been urging May to simply walk away from the union if the exit fee is too large. For justification, the government points to a House of Lords committee, which published a report claiming the UK could be within its rights to refuse to pay. However, to do so the country would also have to accept leaving with no withdrawal agreement, effectively just walking away from the EU without negotiating a new relationship.
Many have questioned the wisdom of walking away from the Union without having any agreement in place and refusing to pay up the UK’s liabilities, but some Conservative “brexiteers” have taken a different view. One reportedly encouraged May to not pay “a brass farthing” to the EU when the UK leaves. Furthermore, while the UK government is putting its faith in the opinion that accepting no exit agreement would allow the country to legally refuse to pay its fees and liabilities, British ambassador to the EU Sir Tim Barrow has said that the Union is putting similar faith into “other legal opinions” that “offer a different interpretation.
The draft EU document, which came into the possession of respected Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, outlined the Union’s proposed strategy for handling Brexit. Leading figures in the EU are due to meet on April 29th to discuss and agree on the final form of the strategy. As well as stating that it could take the matter up with The Hague if Britain should refuse to pay its dues, the draft document makes a number of other proposals.
It suggests putting forward a deal to protect the rights of both UK nationals currently living in the EU and EU nationals residing in the UK. The document also states that single market access is dependent on the UK’s acceptance of “four freedoms.” One of those freedoms is freedom of movement, something May is firmly against. Furthermore, the document posits that there must be a price for leaving and that this should be the loss of some trade benefits currently enjoyed by the UK as a full member.