David Davis claims surprise at EU remarks about UK clarity

Nigel Dodds criticises Michel Barnier’s assertion customs controls are unavoidable

UK Brexit secretary David Davis says “there is a fundamental contradiction in the approach the commission is taking”. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

UK Brexit secretary David Davis says “there is a fundamental contradiction in the approach the commission is taking”. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

 

The British government has reacted sharply to Michel Barnier’s warning that a transition deal is not a given and his claim that the British negotiating position remained unclear. Brexit secretary David Davis said he was surprised the EU’s chief negotiator was not clear about what Britain wanted.

“As I set out in a speech two weeks ago, we are seeking a time-limited period that maintains access to each other’s markets on existing terms. However for any such period to work, both sides will need a way to resolve disputes in the unlikely event that they occur,” Mr Davis said.

“But there is a fundamental contradiction in the approach the commission is taking. Today they acknowledged that a way to resolve disputes and infringements is needed. Yet at the same time they dismissed the UK’s push for reasonable safeguards to ensure our interests are protected. It is not possible to have it both ways.”

Mr Davis on Thursday accused Mr Barnier of acting in bad faith by releasing a document calling for sanctions to be imposed on Britain if it breaches single market rules during the transition. Britain wants to limit the rights of EU citizens who move to the country during the transition and it wants to be consulted on new EU rules during the transition which affect British interests.

‘Friends and allies’

“We must not lose sight of the ultimate aim here – to build a new comprehensive partnership between the UK and the EU that sees us stay as the closest of friends and allies. It is in that spirit that the UK continues to approach negotiations with the commission,” Mr Davis said.

The DUP’s deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, criticised Mr Barnier’s assertion that customs controls at the Border would be unavoidable if the UK left the single market and the customs union after Brexit. Mr Dodds, who leads the DUP’s MPs at Westminster, said the threat of Border checks was inconsistent with the agreement reached between Britain and the EU last December.

“Everyone has committed to avoiding a hard border and the UK has said it will not impose physical infrastructure at the Border. It seems it is only the EU that is brandishing the threat of customs controls. The impact would not be isolated to companies and consumers in Northern Ireland. The Irish beef sector, which sells 52 per cent of all its exports to the UK, would be only one of many devastated,” Mr Dodds said.

‘Flexible and imaginative’

“We will continue to pursue progress that is in the national interest and in keeping with the democratic result of the referendum. In working closely with the Government and articulating our concerns, we will ensure that commitments to unimpeded access to Great Britain for Northern Ireland produce continue to be upheld. The EU previously committed to finding ‘flexible and imaginative’ solutions to challenges facing the Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Today, Mr Barnier committed the EU to the status quo, seeking to put into legal text an agreement which would see the UK closely aligned with Brussels post-Brexit and narrowing the basis for talks on future relations.”