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David Davis: Brexit negotiations with the EU will get 'turbulent'

4 min read

David Davis has warned that the UK's negotiations with the European Union will get more "turbulent" as he confirmed that any trade deal with the US will not come into force until the end of the Brexit transition phase. 

The Brexit Secretary said the current deadlock over the UK's divorce bill was just "the first ripple" in what will be a "difficult and tough" process.

His comments to an audience in Washingtom come a day after he publicly clashed with Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, at the end of the latest round of talks.

Mr Barnier angered his British counterparts by warning that "sufficient progress" had not been made to allow both sides to move onto discussions about a future UK/EU trade deal.

Commenting on the latest state of play, Mr Davis said: "We are in a difficult and tough and complicated negotiation. I have said from the beginning: it will be turbulent.

"What we’re having at the moment is the first ripple and there will be many more ripples along the way.”

The Government’s vision of a transition deal, or “implementation phase”, stretching for years beyond the official Brexit date at the end of March 2019 was set out in a joint article by Philip Hammond and Liam Fox last month.

They said the UK would be out of the EU’s single market and customs union, but would seek to strike a separate customs arrangement with Brussels.

In his speech today, Mr Davis confirmed that the circumstances would prevent any new agreement with the US from coming into force.

“I suspect at the end of the day the limiting factor in time terms will be when we conclude the European Union agreement,” he said.

“Just so people understand, we are bound by a piece of European law... which means that what we do cannot undermine anything the European Union is doing – let’s say in setting up its own free trade arrangements. We can’t act in parallel to that, so technically we are restricted in the extent to which we can negotiate. But that restriction reduces as we get closer to the end.

“One aspect here, of course, is what happens if we end up with what I call an implementation period, other people call transition phases and so on. What I would say to you is my expectation is that we would not have an implementation into force during a transition period or during an implementation period because that would be building a big loophole in Europe’s common external tariff barrier. But we could certainly conclude the negotiation and we could certainly be ready to go on day one once it’s over.”

Mr Davis said that timeframe – which suggests 2021 would be the earliest for a US agreement to be implemented – was “not very much out of line” with how long it would take the UK and US to strike a trade deal due to the complexities of the two economies.


Labour MP Alison McGovern, who supports the pro-EU group Open Britain, mocked the Brexit Secretary’s comments.

David Davis went to Washington hoping to look statesmanlike, but he leaves it looking like an extra from an episode of The Thick of It,” she said.

“He dismissed one of his own proposals on customs as ‘blue sky thinking’ and admitted that Britain will not be able to do a trade deal with the US until a transitional period is over, when he once promised that such a deal would be ready to implement the day the UK left the EU. He also said that the UK will not compromise on standards in trade negotiations, when Liam Fox made the exact opposite point in Washington a month ago.

“With the Government’s position on trade in chaos, and the negotiations stalling, the chances of a bad Brexit deal that hits the UK economy are increasing. It is more important than ever for the Government to reverse their ideological choice to leave the Single Market and Customs Union.”

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