- Getty Images/Leon Neal
- Irish government warns Britain it must stick to deal on first phase of Brexit talks.
- Ireland says Britain will be “held to account” after Brexit Secretary Davis suggests first phase deal could be scrapped if the EU doesn’t offer satisfactory future trade terms.
- Davis’ threat was “bizarre,” Irish government chief whip said.
- Theresa May will declare a “new sense of optimism” in Brexit talks to MPs today.
LONDON – The Irish government has warned Britain that it will be held to account over the agreement on phase one of Brexit talks after Davis Davis suggested the deal was merely a “statement of intent” and not legally binding.
The Brexit Secretary told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that the deal reached by British and EU negotiators last week was not “legally enforceable” and could be scrapped if the EU doesn’t offer Britain satisfactory future trading terms.
Prime Minister Theresa May is set to make a similar statement to MPs in a Commons statement on Monday.
“Of course, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” May will tell Parliament in a speech on Brexit negotiations.
However, the Irish government’s chief whip, John McHugh, told the country’s RTE broadcaster that the UK government’s refusal to accept the phase one agreement as binding was “bizarre” and will not be accepted by the EU27.
“We will as a government, a sovereign government in Ireland, be holding the United Kingdom to account, as will the European Union,” McHugh said, responding to Davis’ remarks.
“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.”
A spokesperson for the Irish government added: “Both Ireland and the EU will be holding the UK to the phase one agreement.”
Davis denied suggesting that the deal was not legally binding on Monday morning. He told LBC: “They [the media] completely twisted my words, I am afraid.”
The deal signed off last week contained UK-EU agreements on the issues of citizens’ rights, Britain’s financial settlement, and the avoidance of hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
EU leaders are set to agree this week that the deal represents “sufficient progress” on the terms of Britain’s divorce, meaning talks on future trade and transition can get underway before the New Year.
Ireland’s deputy prime minister, Simon Coveney, has pointed out that the text of the agreement contradicts the UK Brexit Secretary’s claims, as the British side agreed to uphold all commitments on the Irish border question no matter what trade arrangements it is offered by the EU.
The text states that the commitments Britain made on the Irish border in phase one negotiations will be “upheld in all circumstances, irrespective of the nature of any future agreement between the EU and UK.”
- Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Coveney has previously suggested that the EU27 will not hesitate to support Ireland and veto further progress in Brexit negotiations if the UK government fails to adequately address Ireland’s border concerns.
“I don’t think Ireland will have to block anything on its own,” he told an Irish parliamentary committee last month.
“There is absolute solidarity across the 27 countries here. They are with Ireland on this because we are making a fair but very firm case and I believe other European countries will stick with Ireland.”
May will tell MPs today that there is a “new sense of optimism” around Brexit negotiations.
“I have always been clear that this was never going to be an easy process. It has required give and take for the UK and the EU to move forwards together. And that is what we have done,” she is set to say.
“I believe, a new sense of optimism now in the talks and I fully hope and expect that we will confirm the arrangements I have set out today in the European Council later this week.”