Brexit talks to be suspended if Britain goes back on its word

EU ministers back proposals to prevent ‘backsliding’ on Border commitments

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier:  “There’s a determination that what has been agreed in phase one would be properly protected and seen through,” said Mr Coveney. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier: “There’s a determination that what has been agreed in phase one would be properly protected and seen through,” said Mr Coveney. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

 

Brexit discussions will be suspended if British commitments in phase one talks are reneged on, EU ministers have warned.

Ministers yesterday worked, as one senior EU official put it, to “David Davis-proof” the so-called divorce commitments agreed by the UK last Friday.

In a sharp diplomatic putdown to the UK, they backed proposals which will prevent what Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and others called “backsliding” by the UK.

This was a response to weekend suggestions from Mr Davis, Britain’s Brexit secretary, later repudiated, that the deal was not legally binding but aspirational.

There’s a determination that what has been agreed in phase one would be properly protected and seen through and there would be no backsliding

Guidelines for the next round of talks on transition arrangements for the UK will contain explicit warnings that phase two talks will be suspended if commitments in phase one are reneged on or not “faithfully” enacted in legislation.

Mr Coveney said: “There’s a determination that what has been agreed in phase one would be properly protected and seen through and there would be no backsliding – I think that’s the word used by [chief EU negotiator] Michel Barnier – in phase two on the commitments that have been agreed in phase one. That’s very important from an Irish perspective.”

Copperfasten

Irish concerns to copperfasten in a “withdrawal treaty” commitments made on avoiding a hard Border with the other first-phase deal priorities are also being actively addressed, sources say.

The General Affairs Council met in Brussels, without the UK, to prepare this week’s summit.

The meeting saw ministers strongly endorse the recommendation from the commission’s Brexit task force that “sufficient progress” has been made in three priority areas: citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and Northern Ireland.

With the summit certain on Friday to confirm its willingness to open phase two discussions, ministers also agreed guidelines for approval on talks on post-Brexit transitional arrangements for the UK.

Although the precise shape of the UK’s “no hard Border” commitment will not emerge until its trade relationship with the EU is agreed in talks that cannot start until after Brexit, well after the withdrawal agreement will be signed, Irish officials and lawyers are understood to be working with the commission on means of expressing those commitments in the treaty.