Brexit: David Davis signals UK will not refuse new EU rules for two years after departure

The Brexit Secretary was accused of having 'weak' thinking on the issue by Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Wednesday 24 January 2018 13:04 GMT
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David Davis grilled by Jacob Rees-Mogg at Brexit committee

David Davis has risked a backlash from Tory MPs after indicating Britain will not refuse new EU rules in the Brexit transition period, when the UK has no power to shape them.

He suggested the Government would rely instead on the EU taking a long time to implement new rules during the likely two-year period after 2019, in the hope that by the time any come in to force the transition will be over.

But his answer was immediately dismissed as “really rather weak” by a senior Conservative backbencher who grilled the Brexit Secretary during a committee hearing on Wednesday.

Mr Davis’s reluctance to say the UK will refuse fresh EU rules also sets him on a collision course with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has said the country must not take new regulation after 2019.

It comes just days after The Independent reported how a senior parliamentarian in Brussels said UK negotiators had already agreed in principle to a transition that will see the country continuing as a member in “all but name”.

During a hearing of the Brexit Committee, one of its members, Jacob Rees-Mogg, asked Mr Davis if the UK would accept new rules laid down by the European Commission during the transition period.

The Brexit Secretary said: “Ah now, that’s an area of some interest, because the time to take to put a rule into effect, a regulation into effect, in the EU, the average is 22 months.

“The proposal we have for the European Union is that we leave after 21 months – in other words, there would be nothing that we didn’t have a say in.

“Now, what happened is not right, where it doesn’t work out that way, we’ll see when we come to it.”

Mr Rees-Mogg responded: “Isn’t that a really rather weak answer – to say that the EU has been slow at implementing new laws in the past and therefore it will be slow in the future, when it has a 21-month period when it can implement new rules, possibly including a financial transaction tax, and that it may suddenly find there is an incentive to move quite quickly?”

Mr Davis said he would not go further into the matter as it may risk him skewing ongoing negotiations with the commission.

But his cabinet colleague Mr Johnson said in an interview last year that the Prime Minister said “very clearly in Florence that she envisages the transition period being run under existing arrangements” and that meant only agreeing to existing rules, rather than new ones.

Earlier in the committee session, the Brexit Secretary also confirmed that the UK would be “happy” to accept the oversight of the European Court of Justice during the likely two-year period after 2019.

EU trade deal after Brexit like trying to ‘blow up a bridge without bankrupting yourself’, warns negotiator Cristophe Bondy

Mr Rees-Mogg asked: “If on 30 March 2019 the UK is subject to the European Court of Justice, takes new rules relating to the single market and is paying into the European budget, are we not a vassal state?”

Mr Davis denied the assertion, arguing that it was not valid because, while the UK would accept the court’s jurisdiction with “automatic effect” and without having a representative on it, it would only be for a “short period”.

Despite Ms May having indicated she wants an “implementation period” in which EU-UK trade operates on “current terms”, an agreement that maintained the broader status quo could drive a wedge through her party.

But the prospect appeared a step closer after Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts told The Independent this week that UK negotiators are going along with proposals that mean after Brexit in March 2019, Britain will continue as a member of the EU in “all but name” until at least December 2020.

Mr Davis also appeared at complete loggerheads with his EU counterpart over when a post-Brexit trade deal will be completed – with the minister suggesting it will be before 2019, when Brussels said this week it was likely to be after.

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