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David Davis must be joking if he wants EU to compromise on Brexit, European Council president Donald Tusk says

The president cited Mr Davis's 'English sense of humour'

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
Friday 17 November 2017 16:18 GMT
EU President Dondald Tusk: In order to move on to the next stage of talks in December, the UK needs to make better progress

The president of the European Council has suggested David Davis must be joking if he believes it is the EU’s turn to give ground in Brexit talks.

Asked whether he agreed with Mr Davis’s claim last night that the UK had been the one making all the concessions so far, Donald Tusk told reporters that the Brexit Secretary must be exercising his “English sense of humour”.

Speaking at a press conference just hours after a bilateral meeting with Theresa May in Gothenburg, Mr Tusk said “much more progress” was on needed on the issues of the Northern Ireland border and the financial settlement before the two sides could move to talks about trade.

He said the EU would be “ready” to move to trade talks in December if the UK made the right commitments after launching internal preparations back in October.

“But in order to do that we need to see more progress on the UK side. While good progress on citizens’ rights is being made we need to see much more progress on Ireland and on the financial settlement,” he added.

“In order to avoid any ambiguities about our calendar I made it very clear to the Prime Minister May that this progress needs to happen at the beginning of December at the latest. If there is no sufficient progress by then I will not be in a position to propose new guidelines at a future relationship at the December European Council.

Asked about Mr Davis’s comments on the state of talks, delivered in a speech in Berlin on Thursday night, Mr Tusk said: “I can only tell you that I really appreciate Mr Davis’s English sense of humour.”

In his speech to a German audience Mr Davis warned against putting "politics before prosperity" and said Theresa May had already "explained a bold ambition for the form of our future relationship".

David Davis spoke at the Sueddeutsche Zeitung Economic Summit in Berlin on Thursday night (Getty)

Downing Street says Ms May's meeting with Mr Tusk earlier today had resulted in “positive discussions” in which both leaders "agreed that there is more work to be done and discussed how to take further steps forward together in advance of the European Council in December".

Next week the Prime Minister is also expected to continue her charm offensive and meet with officials behind closed doors in the European Parliament, though no date has yet been confirmed for the meeting.

A week ago Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, spelled out a deadline of two weeks for the UK to make concessions or clarifications on its position before trade talks were postponed by another three to four months.

If no sufficient progress – as defined by the EU – can be made on the three separation issues before the December meeting of the European Council, trade talks will not be able to start until at least March.

Because of the time-limited nature of the Article 50 process, this would throw off the Brexit timetable and leave little time to negotiate a full deal.

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