Brussels sources said EU negotiators will threaten to impose high costs for access to the bloc’s single market when talks on a future trade deal begin next year.
But the threat is understood to be a negotiating tactic primarily aimed at maintaining unity among the 27 countries staying in the EU.
Two senior officials were quoted in a newspaper yesterday setting out their expectations for the next round of Brexit talks in Brussels.
One of the officials admitted leaders of the 27 countries remaining in the EU were unlikely to stay unified about what sort of deal should be agreed with Britain.
The official was quoted as saying: “This is the moment when irreconcilable interests start to come to the surface.
“Our differences must not become the opportunity for Britain to divide and rule us.
“We must fight that. This is when Brexit gets real.”
The source claimed that building a negotiating position based around high charges for British financial services and airlines would give the EU 27 a clear issue to unite around.
Divisions were likely to emerge between some nations wanting to punish the UK for quitting the EU and others who do not want to lose access to British markets for their exports.
Another official admitted disagreements were likely to emerge as negotiators wrangled over future arrangements for different economic sectors such as aviation, agriculture and financial services.
The official was quoted as saying: “That is where it becomes frankly complicated for our side.
“Once you go into individual sectors then interests differ.”
British officials indicated that they are prepared for costly EU demands to be made in return for access to the Single Market.
One British official said: “We will want as much as possible — but what is the cost?
“That is where the onus is on the EU.”
But they warn that the EU could risk the Brexit negotiations collapsing if they attempt to extract too high a price from the UK.
The UK official said: “If they make it too prohibitive, it undermines the whole model.”