David Davis caves in to EU over Brexit timetable on first day of talks
David Davis caved in to the EU's Brexit timetable today as talks on the UK quitting the bloc got underway.
The speedy climbdown by the Brexit Secretary came despite him predicting last month that the issue would be "the row of the summer".
Mr Davis had insisted that talks on Britain's future trading relationship with the EU should be held in parallel with negotiations on the divorce bill, Northern Ireland and the rights of EU and British citizens.
And in her letter triggering Article 50 in March, Theresa May said: “We believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the EU.”
But at a press conference at the end of the first day of talks in Brussels, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said he and Mr Davis had agreed that "sufficient progress" should be made on the other issues before they would eventually move onto the trade talks.
That flew in the face of what Mr Davis told ITV’s Peston on Sunday last month, when he said: "How on earth do you resolve the issue of the border with Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland unless you know what our general borders policy is, what the customs agreement is, what our trade agreement is?
"It’s wholly illogical. and we happen to think the wrong interpretation of the treaty, so that'll be the row of the summer."
When asked what concessions the EU has made to Britain so far in the talks, Mr Barnier said he was not in that “frame of mind”.
“The United Kingdom has decided to leave the European Union, it is not the other way around," he said. "“So, we each have to assume our responsibility and the consequences of our decisions. And the consequences are substantial."
Mr Davis insisted the talks had gone well.
"I’ve been encouraged by the constructive approach that both sides have taken," he said. "We have laid a solid foundation for future discussions, with an ambitious but eminently achievable timetable.
"It was clear from the opening that both of us want to achieve the best possible outcome and the strongest possible partnership - one that works for the UK and for the EU."
But Lib Dem leader Tim Farron branded the change of timetable “humiliating” and called Mr Davis a “joker”.
He said "One day in and he has capitulated. Despite the Government’s posturing, the EU was clear today it has not made a single concession to David Davis. He has been utterly humiliated.
"After Philip Hammond tried to rugby tackle his Conservative colleagues before they leap off the cliff edge on trade, David Davis has shrugged him off and dived into the abyss."