- Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP/Press Association Images
David Davis concedes that trade talks cannot begin before Brexit divorce talks.
The Brexit secretary had previously insisted that talks over the timetable would be the “row of the summer”
UK concession comes after just one day of talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
LONDON – The UK government has been forced in to a major climbdown on the first day of Brexit negotiations after being forced to accept the EU’s timetable for talks.
The EU had demanded early agreement on the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, the Brexit divorce bill and the Northern Irish border, before any discussions could begin on a trade deal.
The Brexit secretary David Davis had previously rejected this and predicted that it would be the “row of the summer” once negotiations began.
He told ITV last month that it would be “wholly illogical” not to negotiate Britain’s future trading relationship with the EU at the same time as negotiating divorce procedures.
However, in a press conference following the first day of Brexit talks, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier revealed that Davis had accepted the EU’s original demands.
“Today we agreed on dates, we agreed on organisation and we agreed on priorities for the negotiation,” Barnier said.
“In the first step we will deal with the most pressing issues. We must lift the uncertainty caused by Brexit. We must make sure that the withdrawal of Britain happens in an orderly manner. Then in the second step we will scope our future partnership.”
— European Commission (@EU_Commission) June19, 2017
The UK has now agreed to enter talks on divorce proceedings, including Britain’s exit bill and the border with Northern Ireland, before any talks on future trading relations can begin.
When asked why he had capitulated to EU demands, Davis replied that: “It’s not when it starts. It’s how it’s concluded that matters.”
“The position we have agreed today is completely consistent with our long-term position.”
The two men said the will meet once every month for catch-up talks. Davis also said the UK plans to set out its own negotiating aims for Brexit next Monday.