David Davis sparks row with Ireland over 'not legally enforceable' Brexit deal claim

Posted On: 
10th December 2017

David Davis has sparked a diplomatic row with the Irish government after he claimed the Brexit deal struck by Theresa May last week was not legally binding.

David Davis has angered the Irish government.
PA Images

The Brexit Secretary said the agreement, which vows there will never be a return to a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland, was "a statement of intent" and therefore not "a legally enforceable thing".

But his comments provoked an angry response from ministers in Dublin, who insisted that the UK would not be able to renege on the 11th-hour deal.

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Under the terms of the agreement struck by Theresa May on Friday morning, Britain's economy will remain "aligned" with the EU's in areas covered by the Good Friday Agreement.

However, appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Davis appeared to suggest the UK's commitment to the deal - which is set to be approved at a Brussels summit this week - was not watertight.

He said: “We want to protect the peace process and we also want to protect Ireland from the impact of Brexit for them.

“This was a statement of intent more than anything else. Much more a statement of intent than it was a legally enforceable thing."

Irish deputy prime minister Simon Coveney took to Twitter to stress that Britain had made "a clear and positive commitment" to the deal.



Joe McHugh, the Irish government chief whip, branded the Brexit Secretary’s comments “bizarre”.

He told Irish broadcaster RTÉ: "We will as a government, a sovereign government in Ireland, be holding the United Kingdom to account, as will the European Union.

"My question to anybody within the British government would be, why would there be an agreement, a set of principled agreements, in order to get to phase two, if they weren’t going to be held up? That just sounds bizarre to me.

"This, as far as we’re concerned, is a binding agreement, an agreement in principle."

Elsewhere in his interview, Mr Davis said the Government would strike a "Canada plus plus plus" trade deal with the EU after Brexit.