David Davis scrambles to salvage EU relations after ‘damaging trust’

From The Guardian: David Davis’s claim that the UK’s concessions in an agreement to move on the Brexit negotiations were merely a statement of intent has damaged trust and will see a hardening of positions in Brussels, the European parliament’s coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, has said.

The former Belgian prime minister claimed the Brexit secretary’s comments over the weekend were “unacceptable”, and undermined confidence in the British government’s trustworthiness.

The member states will now agree a tougher wording in their guidelines about the next stage of the talks, due to be signed off at a summit of leaders on Friday, Verhofstadt said.

“As someone said, it’s an own goal,” Verhofstadt said. “It is clear that the European council will be more strict now. It is saying: ‘Yeah, OK, these are our intentions, our commitments, we want these commitments translated into legal text before we make progress in the second stage.’ That is now the position of the council. I have seen a hardening of the position of the council and there will be a hardening of the position of the parliament.”

The European parliament is to vote on a draft resolution on Wednesday and this will also be amended so as to condemn the comments and demand swift legal assurances from the UK, he added.

The proposed amendments claim that in “calling the outcome of phase one of the negotiations a mere ‘statement of intent’”, David Davis’s intervention threatened “to undermine the good faith that has been built during the negotiations”.

Verhofstadt, the leader of the liberal group in the European parliament, said: “We will introduce amendments concerning the – for us – unacceptable description by David Davis of this agreement, saying it was merely a statement of intent rather than a legally enforceable text. And in our opinion that is really undermining the trust that is necessary in such negotiations.”

Davis’s comments had come on Sunday in response to reports that some hardline Brexiters in the UK had been assured by the British government that assurances that Northern Ireland would maintain “full alignment” with EU law in future were meaningless.

The Brexit secretary explained that the joint agreement struck with the European commission on the Irish border, citizens’ rights and the financial settlement, was “more a statement of intent than it was a legally enforceable thing”.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]