David Davis and Michel Barnier’s press conference – Summary
Here are the main points from the David Davis/Michel Barnier press conference.
- Davis, the Brexit secretary, said the UK would not let Northern Ireland stay in the customs union or the single market. He was responding to reports of a leaked EU position paper that suggests Ireland is calling for Northern Ireland to stay in the customs union and the single market to avoid a hard border going up between the Republic and Northern Ireland. With the UK government determined to leave the customs union and the single market, the paper implies the solution could involve Northern Ireland having different customs rules from the rest of the UK. But Davis said that was unacceptable. He said:
We respect the European Union desire to protect the legal order of the single market and customs union.
But that cannot come at cost to the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom.
As I have said before, we recognise the need for specific solutions for the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland.
But let me be clear.
This cannot amount to creating a new border inside our United Kingdom.
- Davis repeated the UK’s determination to “honour the [financial] commitments we have made during the period of our membership”. This is the formula used by Theresa May in her Florence speech. But he did not say anything new about what these commitments are. Dia Chakravarty, the Telegraph’s Brexit editor, thinks the government has not prepared voters for how expensive this will be.
- Barnier said the UK and the EU had to agree an “objective interpretation” of what May meant when she said the UK would honour its financial commitments. He said:
This is absolutely vital if we are to achieve sufficient progress in December. It is just a matter of settling accounts as in any separation.
- Barnier said there had to be “sincere and real progress” in the Brexit talks for them to be able to move on to phase two, the trade and transition phase, in December. The EU has always set “sufficient progress” as the threshold. Barnier repeated that formula today but at least twice he used “sincere and real” as qualifiers to explain what “sufficient” meant. He said:
Only sufficient progress – that is to say sincere and real progress – on the three main key issues of these negotiations will enable the triggering of the of second phase of our negotiation.
- Barnier said the EU was not asking for concessions, and not planning to offer any itself. “We are not asking the UK for concessions, nor are we planning to make any concessions ourselves,” he said. He said the negotiation was just a matter of clarifying what was owed. (But he was ignoring the fact that any offer by the UK to pay more than it has already agreed would be seen as a concession, regardless of Brexit semantics.)
- Barnier said there were still some issues holding up an agreement on citizens’ rights. He said:
There are still a number of points that need more work: family reunification; the right to export social security benefits; and the role of the European Court of justice in guaranteeing consistent application of case law in the UK and in the EU.
- Davis called for more “flexibility” and “imagination” in the negotiations. He said:
The United Kingdom will continue to engage and negotiate constructively as we have done since the start.
But we need to see flexibility, imagination and willingness to make progress on both sides if these negotiations are to succeed and we are able to realise our new deep and special partnership.
Here is some comment from journalists on the press conference.
From Politico Europe’s Charlie Cooper
From the Guardian’s Jennifer Rankin
From ITV’s James Mates
From the Independent’s Jon Stone
From Politico Europe’s Quentin Aries
From the New York Times’ James Kanter
Barnier gives UK a two-week deadline to offer more money if it wants trade talks to start after December
Here is the key statement from Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator.
He was asked this question by a reporter from the German press agency.
Monsieur Barnier, could you confirm for me that you will need clarifications or concessions, whichever you prefer, from the UK within two weeks in order to move on to the second phase in December?
And Barnier replied:
Ma response est, oui [My answer is, yes.]
There are five weeks until the EU summit in December (on 14 and 15) where EU leaders will decide whether or not sufficient progress has been made in phase one of the talks to justify moving on to phase two, the negotiation about a transition and the future trade relationship. That suggests the UK has a month or more to budget.
But EU council resolutions do not get decided on the day. They are cooked up several weeks in advance, in a process that involves draft conclusions being circulated and member states being squared long before the EU leaders sit down for dinner in Brussels on the Thursday night.
Barnier was making the point that, although the summit may be five weeks away, in practice the UK’s deadline is much tighter because of the slow pace at which the EU makes decisions.
And the key issue on which the EU wants the UK to budge, of course, is money.
Q: [From the Daily Telegraph – to Davis] Why will you be in a better place to make a deal in December than in October?
Davis says it is for the EU to decide what sufficient progress is.
But there has been significant progress. He says that will continue “at pace” into December.
Q: [From the Telegraph – to Barnier] You wanted to open talks on a transition. But EU leaders blocked that idea. Who is in charge of the negotiation?
Barnier says if there has not been sufficient progress by December, talks on the future will be delayed.
He says the French and German positions are important.
But he listens to all EU states, and the European parliament.
And that’s it. The press conference is over.
The most important thing is what Michel Barnier said about the two-week deadline for progress. (See 11.58am.)
I will post a summary soon.
Q: What will you [Barnier] do if you do not get the clarification you need within two weeks? And how confident are you you will get this?
Barnier says the technical experts are speaking to each other between the Brexit negotiating rounds.
He says the six rounds have been “hardly anything”. Hopefully there will be a seventh round soon.
He says he does not expect to settle everything before Christmas, but there has to be sincere and real progress.
Barnier says he will not comment on the internal political situation in the UK.
But he is following the public debate closely.
He was struck the other day by the reaction to the fact that he met Nick Clegg and others (Ken Clarke and Andrew Adonis).
But his door is open, he says. This week he met a parliamentary delegation.
But he is negotiating with the government. It says it is leaving.
Barnier says UK needs to offer concessions within two weeks for progress to be made at December summit.
Q: [From a German press agency] Will the EU need concessions from the UK within two weeks to allow time for an agreement at the December summit.
Barnier says his answer is yes.
- Barnier says UK needs to offer concessions within two weeks for progress to be made at December summit.
Davis says there are still unresolved issues on citizens’ rights.
He says it is a priority for the UK to retain the sovereignty of UK courts.
On money, he says the UK will honour the commitments it has made during its EU membership.
He says this weeks’s talks have allowed both sides to consolidate progress already made.
Both sides need to maintain progress, he says.
Davis insists Northern Ireland must leave customs union and single market
Davis turns to Ireland.
He says both sides are committed to avoiding physical infrastructure are the border.
The final outcome can only be agreed when the UK and the EU agree the final border.
But the UK will maintain its integrity, he says. He says it will not accept a new border between the island of Ireland and the mainland.
(He seems to be rejecting the proposal in the leaked EU document for Northern Ireland to stay in the customs union and the single market.)
- Davis insists Northern Ireland must leave customs union and single market.
Davis says flexibility and pragmatism required on both sides
David Davis is speaking now.
He says the Florence speech gave dynamism to the talks.
This week they have been working through the issues where there are disagrements.
Now is the time for both sides to move forward together.
It will require flexibility and pragmatism from both sides, he says.
- Davis says flexibility and pragmatism required on both sides.
Barnier says the two sides have common goals on the Irish issues.
And he turns to money (switching back to speaking in French).
This is a matter of settling accounts, he says.
He says the UK will be leaving. In order to achieve their common objective, both sides will work “intensely” in the run up to the December EU summit.
Barnier says UK has provided ‘useful clarifications’ on some aspects relating to citizens’ rights
Barnier turns to citizens’ rights. They have made “some progress”, he says.
He says the EU wanted reassurance about the registration system, and about the appeal system. The UK has provided “useful clarifications that are a good basis for further work”.
But he says there are still issues to be resolved relating to family reunification, the export of benefits and the influence of the European court of justice in relation to the application of case law.