Belgian PM interview: push Brexit button and May must pay

British expectations in its divorce proceedings from the European Union are “not realistic,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said Friday, sending a clear warning that Britain will not escape having to foot a hefty bill for its momentous decision that has shaken the bloc to its core.

Michel said in an interview with The Associated Press Friday that “those who think in Britain they can push the Brexit button and not have a bill to pay are seriously mistaken.”

Over a few testy days this week, both sides sparred about the negotiations, which are to start after the British June 8 elections, with some questioning what, if anything, Britain should pay for. Over the past months, the estimates have ranged from 20 billion to 60 billion euros before the Financial Times upped the figure to as much as 100 billion euros ($109 billion) — a figure that Britain has flatly rejected paying.

“In Britain ever more, they will realize that Brexit, well, has consequences — economic, commercial, partnerships,” Michel said. “Perhaps during the referendum the impression was given that once the Brexit button was pushed everything would take care of itself easily. Well, that is not true. When you push that Brexit button, there are consequences, there is a bill to pay.”

The 27 other EU nations have shown a united front in facing Brexit, and Michel epitomized the view that the negotiations should be done on the EU’s terms, not Britain’s.

And he further insisted that it was not up to British Prime Minister Theresa May to impose her negotiating strategy. May has been seeking parallel talks on unwinding Britain’s EU membership while at the same time already negotiating a future relationship and a trade deal with the bloc.

“That’s not realistic,” Michel said. “We are splitting, like a divorce. You need to address the material issues, financial, who gets the kids, transitional measures,” he said. “It is only afterward that we can look at the future. You have to turn a page before…

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