3 ways Davis and Barnier exposed depths of Brexit logjam

by Luke Lythgoe | 31.08.2017

“We did not get any decisive progress on any of the principal subjects… we are quite far from being able to say sufficient progress has taken place,” the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, told journalists in Brussels today. “There remains some way to go,” echoed the UK’s Brexit secretary, David Davis.

There were no shocks at their joint press conference following the third round of Brexit negotiations. Prospects that the talks might move on by October to discuss the future EU-UK relationship were already dim. We also knew that the ‘divorce bill’ is proving a major stumbling block and that the EU is frustrated by the ambiguity in the UK’s recent position papers.

But what we did glean was a deeper insight into the stalemate on specific issues. Here are three revealing details from the press conference.

1. The EU can’t trust what Britain means by its “obligations” regarding the financial settlement

“In July the UK recognised that it has obligations beyond the Brexit date,” said Barnier. “But this week the UK explained that their obligations will be limited to their last EU budget payment before departure.” The question, he said, is how to build trust before working on a future relationship?

Barnier emphasised that the financial settlement wasn’t just about budget payments. All 28 EU members had promised money to many different non-EU countries, local authorities and other organisations, which have plans in place to spend the funds. Barnier zeroed in on Davis’s use of the term “moral obligations”, saying the UK must honour these longer-term commitments.

2. Home Office immigration gaffes are making a deal on citizens’ rights harder

Barnier went out of his way to mention a recent Home Office error in which over 100 EU citizens received letters telling them they were being deported. What’s more, he said it was “not the first time that something like this has happened”.

It neatly underlined the EU’s view that the rights of its citizens living in the UK needed to be “directly enforceable in front of national jurisdictions under the control of of the European Court of Justice”. This is a red line for the EU that the British government will find hard to erase.

3. Davis insists withdrawal cannot be discussed without considering the future, but Barnier’s hands are tied

These talks aren’t solely about the EU being exasperated with the UK. Davis returned again to the need for “imaginative and flexible” solutions, a phrase he said he was borrowing from the European Council. While many of the UK’s recent proposals have been imaginative to the point of unworkable, there are clearly points where flexibility from Brussels would help. Most obviously, negotiating an inter-Irish border deal cannot readily be disentangled from working out future customs arrangements. As Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said, this is “common sense”.

But Barnier’s hands are tied by his negotiating mandate, which explicitly laid out the sequencing of these talks. Getting all 27 other EU members to agree broad guidelines at the very beginning of negotiations was a good way to ensure unity – and there has been little sign yet of divisions. But the inflexible terms mean Barnier is unable to adapt his tactics without going back to the European Council.

A need for speed?

The EU’s willingness to “step up and intensify” negotiations, as Barnier put it, is a potential game-changer. However, when asked whether he would put in all the time needed to break the deadlock, Davis was more evasive.

As for the spirit of the talks, both men insisted their teams were working hard to reach an agreement. When it was put to him that he seemed frustrated and angry, Barnier demurred. He said he was patient and determined and had “shown the typical calm of a mountaineer”. But the fact remains that time is running out to reach the summit. And the weather, for now, is getting worse.

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Edited by Alan Wheatley

14 Responses to “3 ways Davis and Barnier exposed depths of Brexit logjam”

  • There is NO legal requirement for the UK to pay for any ”divorce” settlement. Once the EU puts on the table the legal requirement that the UK must then negotiations may commence. All we have is bully tactics at this moment. If it is legal then take them to court !

    • Yeah let’s take them to court. Let’s see how that works out. UK has obligations far beyond the EU budget. There are pensions, aid, etc. But hey Quitlings don’t care about the big picture.

    • While that may be technically the case (but also maybe not), if we are not seen as a trustworthy partner, who else will want to make new deals with a country who makes promises and then breaks them?

    • so If you make obligations lasting 7 years into the future say buy a car
      your saying you would be legally ok to send the car back and refuse to
      pay the rest of your loan.. If you sign up for car insurance and enjoy the benefits of the policy (make a claim) you can end your policy after your claim and not pay the rest of the bill.

      we made obligations in the last round of eu financial cycles that we at that time agreed to honour are you now saying you would rather we default on these obligations and walk away.

      If we did. would it not be the case that anyone we make future obligations with us will not trust that obligation thinking we may just default on them again.
      do you really think the USA or CHINA will do a deal with us if they think we will walk away from any deal without fulfilling our obligations
      or is it just because we won world war 2 that you think we can do that.

      default on your car or mortgage payments and see if 1 they let you keep your house or car and 2 let you go and buy another one.

      • Absolutely bang on Paul. Sadly some of the comments on here suggest that too many people do not understand our responsibility or think we should renege on it!
        Nobody would ever trust the UK if it did that. Hopefully your excellent examples will help some of the Dumbo’s to better understand. This is what happens to people who have put too much trust in liars like Dictator May, Slimy Gove, Batty Boris Johnson, Leadsom- mislead others, Fox the sly, Davis the dirty dealer and of course Fartage the 5th Columnist.

    • So wrong.

      There IS a legal requirement, Britain has signed up to, and passed at EU level a number of commitments that it HAS to fulfill. There are signatures on documents by PM’s and foreign secretaries.

      Dodgy Davies coming the idiot when he knows full well what the divorce bill is, he just doesn’t want to publish it as he knows the outcry will be massive.

    • Just cough up. What a childish embarrassment the UK has become. Utterly untrustworthy liars both now and in the campaigning period before the referendum. Your commitments are clear.

      • No need to pay up. Just say NO. To the Brexshits. Learn something from Ian Paisley, who became a reasonable person in his later years.

  • “There is NO legal requirement for the UK to pay for any ”divorce” settlement.”

    and so it goes,

    There is NO legal requirement for the EU to offer a FTA,
    There is NO legal requirement for the EU to give ‘passporting’ right away,
    There is NO legal requirement for the EU to offer an transitional deal,
    There is NO legal requirement for the EU to offer an aviation deal,
    And there is NO legal requirement for the EU to offer the UK anything.

  • Davis has been described by two people who know him and who have worked with him as, not very bright and very lazy. I can well believe those descriptions. I suspect Barnier will wipe the floor with him. Apparently one German diplomat who has read Davis’s Position Papers has commented that they read like a country which wants to join the EU, not leave it.

    • I previously though that Davis was politically dead – now they are hinting at him becoming PM!!!! God help us all if any of these goons working for Dictator May are appointed as the next PM.

      It will however show the electorate that the Great Conservative Party has gone past it’s sell by date and should be exterminated but by the electorate and not daleks!!

  • Article 50 was cobbled together on the back of a fag packet because no-one ever thought that one of the 28 would be stupid enough to walk away from what is, essentially, a gold mine. Well, it transpires that one of them is. and has continued to display a magnificent incompetence in removing ourselves from the EU. There have been mutterings of saying it’s all been a dreadful mistake and let’s forget the whole thing, but I believe Europe would be very glad to see us go, once we’ve paid up what we contractually owe,

    • Can’t argue your point. Davis in particular has been so evasive and non-specific that he has utterly undermined any semblance of reasonableness the UK might have been to claim or project. Instead the UK has been left looking like a shower of brain-dead f**k-wits without a single cognisant thought to hide behind.

      Eden at the airport with that piece of paper is looking really organised in comparison. Even John, signing off his political suicide note in 1315, has to look good in comparison with these self-serving fools.