Guy Verhofstadt says David Davis' 'unhelpful' Brexit deal claim has undermined trust

Adam Payne
Guy Verhofstadt

REUTERS/Yves Herman

  • Guy Verhofstaft says David Davis claim that Brexit deal isn't legally binding "undermines trust" between Britain and EU.
  • The EU Parliament's chief Brexit coordinator wants the agreement to be amended following Davis' remarks.
  • Brexit Secretary Davis claimed on Sunday that the Brexit deal agreed last week was a "statement of intent" and not legally enforceable.
  • Davis agrees to work with Verhofstadt to have agreement enshrined in legal text. 

LONDON — The EU Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator has accused David Davis of being "unhelpful" and undermining trust between the two sides after the Brexit Secretary claimed the deal agreed last week wasn't legally binding.

Guy Verhofstadt tweeted on Tuesday that the EU Parliament will insist the text of the deal be amended to reflect the EU's position that the agreement on the first phase of Brexit talks is legally enforceable.

Theresa May held overnight talks with the EU, the Irish government and DUP last week to reach an agreement on the issues of citizens' rights, Britain's financial settlement, and the Irish border.

Verhofstadt, a prominent EU Parliamentarian, said today the agreement should be "translated into legal text ASAP."

Tweet Embed:
Remarks by David Davis that Phase one deal last week not binding were unhelpful & undermines trust. EP text will now reflect this & insist agreement translated into legal text ASAP #Brexit

Davis announced on Tuesday afternoon that he has agreed to work together with the EU Parliamentarian to get last week's agreement enshrined in legal text.

Tweet Embed:
Pleasure, as ever, to speak to my friend @guyverhofstadt - we both agreed on the importance of the Joint Report. Let's work together to get it converted into legal text as soon as possible. 1/2 Tweet Embed:
I look forward to working closely with the EP in the next phase, including on a top shared priority: ensuring admin procedures for citizens are as streamlined as possible in both the UK and EU. 2/2 @guyverhofstadt

Davis told the BBC's Andrew Marr on Sunday that the deal reached by British and EU negotiators last week was merely a "statement of intent" and could be scrapped if the EU doesn't offer Britain satisfactory future trading terms.

He denied suggesting that the deal was not legally binding on Monday morning, telling LBC: "They [the media] completely twisted my words, I am afraid."

However, his claim was picked up by Verhofstadt, who has tabled an amendment to the wording of the agreement which the EU27 will agree this week.

The Irish government warned the UK government that it would be prepared to veto further progress in Brexit talks if the agreement reached on avoiding a hard border was not treated as legally binding.

A spokesperson for the Irish government added: "Both Ireland and the EU will be holding the UK to the phase one agreement."

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."

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