Yes, I know that it's a cliché; though there's certainly a “war of words” going on between the British government and the EU's big knobs. These Euro-knobs are also beginning to sound like strict nannies giving their nieces and nephews a good telling off.
Boris Johnson - quite rightly - said that Brussels can “go whistle” when it comes to the UK paying a huge sum to the EU for not wanting to remain under its control. That huge sum is a punishment for Brexit. Yes, Britain is being punished. Or that's the EU's hope.
Thus the European Chief Negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, sarcastically said: “I’m not hearing any whistling, just the clock ticking.” That was a reference to the deadline to reach an agreement by March 2019.
However, in order to make it seem that it's not all about reparations and punishment, Michel Barnier said that the British government should also be clear on the status of its expatriate citizens and, well, the border with Ireland. Now why the hell is a EU commissar referring to the Northern Ireland/Ireland border? The cheek of it!
It's of course also the case that Barnier didn't refer to reparations or punishment. Instead – when speaking after a briefing with other European big knobs in Brussels - he talked about the UK “honouring its monetary commitments”.
Yes, according to the European Commission president (Jean-Claude Juncker), the bill may very well be £53 billion. Other reports have it as high as £89 billion. (The British government is expected to spend around £86 billion on education in 2018.)
I mentioned reparations. According to Michel Bernard Barnier, other people have used the word “ransom”. He said:
“People have used words like ransom. We are not asking the UK for a single euro or a single pound more than they have legally undertaken to provide.”
The obvious questions here are:
i) Did the UK legally undertake to provide this specific “monetary commitment” to the EU?
ii) And if 'yes', what was the figure agreed on?
In the end, Barnier seemed to agree with me. After all his subterfuge, he couldn't help himself when he added that the best alternative to punishment (or reparations) would be for the UK to stay in the EU. Indeed he threatened “consequences” for leaving the EU.
These consequences are reparations and other kinds of political/financial punishment.