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Fri, 14 August 2020

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David Davis mocked over flying visit to Brussels for latest Brexit talks

David Davis mocked over flying visit to Brussels for latest Brexit talks
3 min read

David Davis has been criticised after spending barely an hour in Brussels at the start of the latest round of Brexit negotiations.

The Brexit Secretary only stayed in the Belgian capital long enough to have his picture taken with chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier before he returned to London.

That was despite Mr Davis earlier insisting it was time for the United Kingdom and the EU to "get down to business" and make progress on thrashing out a deal.

He was also mocked on Twitter after a picture showed him and the UK delegation sitting without any briefing notes - unlike Mr Barnier and his team.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said: "Since the election the Government has been in disarray. There is no agreed Cabinet position on vital issues, the negotiating team is not prepared and the Prime Minister has lost her authority. Meanwhile the clock is ticking and the risks are increasing day by day.

"David Davis can hardly say this is the time 'to get down to business' and then spend only a few minutes in Brussels before heading back to Whitehall.

"We need a fresh approach and to see real progress in negotiations. That means engaging with the substance of talks. And it means resolving vital issues such as citizens’ rights that have already dragged on for too long."

Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: "We have less than twenty months of Brexit talks left, yet David Davis has skulked back to the UK after just half a day. He didn't have any position papers with him because this government has no agreed Brexit position.

"This is a government with no papers, no plan and no time for the most important negotiations of a lifetime. They are meant to be negotiating Brexit but they can’t even negotiate among themselves.”

British and EU officials will carry on with negotiations before Mr Davis returns to Brussels on Thursday.

Speaking as he arrived in the Belgian capital this morning, the minister said: "It’s good to be back in Brussels, to open the next formal round of the negotiations. We made a good start last month, and as Michel says we are now getting into the substance of the matter.

"For us it is incredibly important that we now make good progress, that we negotiate through this and identify the differences so that we can deal with them, and identify the similarities so we can reinforce them. And now, it’s time to get down to work and make this a successful negotiation."

The issue of citizens' rights post-Brexit is top of the agenda in the latest round of talks. The UK has already made an offer EU nationals living in the UK to have "settled status" once they have built up five years' residence in the country.

However there is uncertainty over how any arrangement would be enforced, with the British government repeatedly saying it will not accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice after Brexit. 

The offer was met by a distinctly frosty response from top EU officials, with European Council president Donald Tusk saying it was "below our expectations and risks worsening the situation for our citizens".