Fredrik Reinfeldt, former Swedish prime minister and a onetime close ally of David Cameron, said that the UK should “manage expectations” in the exit talks.
“There are some real tough things to crack here, because this is 15 percent of the EU budget now leaving”, he said.
EU nations will lean on the UK over the Brexit bill in part because the budget hole left by Britain risks becoming a source of tension among the remaining 27 member states, he said.
“The budget issue, as always [in the EU], is genuinely tough – both on the matter of what will happen afterwards and also on this exit bill.”
Speaking to the FT in Malta, Mr Reinfeldt said that previous EU experiences show how fiendishly complicated international trade talks can be – citing the stalled talks with the US as an example.
He also stressed that the UK will never be able to secure similar trading terms to what it has now. “For me that’s Norway,” he said, in reference to the European Economic Area – a trading relationship the UK has rejected as too similar to EU membership.
One irony, he said, is that the EU could move in a direction in the coming years that would address some of the UK’s immigration concerns.
He said the issue of tighter rules on access to security for EU nationals will “come back in many countries as a discussion, I’m pretty sure.”
“That we keep freedom of movement, but say maybe that you can’t get access to everything on day one, that could be a way maybe to smooth the criticism or potential criticism of freedom of movement.”