EU president Jean-Claude Juncker told his Brexit negotiating team that David Davis is “jeopardising” talks with his instability and lack of involvement, according to minutes published by the European Commission.
The minutes from a meeting in July this summer record that the Commission President “expressed his concern about the question of the stability and accountability of the UK negotiator and his apparent lack of involvement, which risked jeopardising the success of the negotiations”.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels on Thursday a European Commission spokesperson downplayed the comments.
“I think we’ve clearly moved on since July … since then we’ve continuously been stressing that we stand ready 24/7 to engage with the UK negotiator and his team to make swift progress on these negotiations,’ she said.
The spokesperson went on to describe the minutes as “a snapshot” of the situation at the time but did not directly answer a question about whether the Commission still believed Mr Davis was incompetent.
The release of the minutes is the latest round in the escalating war of words between the British and EU sides. It comes days after Mr Davis said Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator looked “silly” when he said little progress had been made in talks.
That attack by Mr Davis in turn came after Mr Barnier called on Mr Davis to start negotiating “seriously” and suggested that the UK did not fully understand the consequences of leaving the EU single market.
The most recent third round of Brexit talks in Brussels last week ended in deadlock. The Commission this Thursday released five new Brexit position papers in a bid to clarify its views on particular areas where detail was previously missing.
Asked about the comments recorded in the minutes, Mr Barnier said: “I’ve known David Davis for 20 years, back then we were both European affairs ministers, myself in France and he in the UK. This was 95-96, when we were both preparing the Amsterdam treaty.
“I have cordial relations with him still and good professional relations. I would add another thing: seven days ago exactly at this time we arrived at the end of the third round of negotiation. David Davis was standing here and I paid tribute to his professionalism and the competence of the whole of the UK team. I have nothing further to add on that point.”
He added: “I don’t want people to get emotional.”
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