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David Davis dismisses the EU's two-week deadline for Britain to set out 'divorce' bill commitment

Mr Davis warned the EU not to expect a number or a formula indicating what the UK will pay

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Sunday 12 November 2017 12:41 GMT
David Davis explains his interpretation of 'sufficient progress' on Brexit talks

David Davis has dismissed the two-week deadline set by the chief EU Brexit negotiator for the UK setting out how it will meet its financial obligations.

The Brexit Secretary laughed in an interview when he was asked about the deadline set out by Michel Barnier on Friday.

He said the real deadline was in December and warned the EU not to expect a figure or a formula by which the UK’s obligations would be calculated.

It comes after the most recent round of Brexit talks once again failed to make substantial progress towards completing negotiations on withdrawal issues including the divorce bill.

Mr Barnier indicated that the UK would have to set out a commitment more clearly within two weeks, or it would not be possible to move talks on to transition and trade at the December European Council.

But asked about the deadline on Sky News’s Sunday with Paterson, Mr Davis said: “In every negotiation each side tries to control the timetable. The real deadline on this, of course, is December. It’s the December council.

“Your viewers are all taxpayers I suspect, one way or another, and they would not want me to just come along and give away billions of pounds.

“So we are being very, very careful and it’s taking time, and we will take our time to get to the right answer.”

If Theresa May fails to gain an agreement in December from European national leaders to move talks on, it could substantially delay the already tight schedule of negotiations and even destabilise her administration.

She is under pressure from Tory Eurosceptics to walk away from talks if the EU does not allow progress before Christmas.

But Mr Davis made clear what his EU counterpart should not expect, when asked about whether the UK would be able to secure “sufficient progress” on the divorce bill to move talks forward.

He said: “They invented this phrase ‘sufficient progress’, right? It’s in their control what it really is.

“But one of the reasons they did that is because we said ‘alright, we’ll do this sequencing, but don’t imagine you’ll have a number or a formula at the end of it. We’ll get towards that process, but you won’t have a number or a formula before we move on to the next stage’.

Barnier: The Brexit agreement will not be based on concessions

“They accepted that, so it’s not to be expected that someone is going to come along and say here is an extra £5bn or whatever.”

At the end of the latest round of Brexit talks, Mr Barnier was asked whether the UK only had two weeks to make progress before the December Council meeting, to which he replied simply: “My answer is yes.”

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