David Davis claims 'decisive steps forward' in Brexit talks

David Davis

“Decisive steps forward” have been made in the latest round of UK-EU talks, Brexit Secretary David Davis has said.

Mr Davis was speaking at the end of the first talks since Theresa May’s speech in Italy last week, in which she said the UK wanted a two-year transition.

But EU negotiator Michel Barnier said there were still “big gaps” between the sides on some of the withdrawal issues.

He said it could be “weeks or months” before they agreed to move to the next stage of talks about future relations.

The UK is keen to get on to talking about future relations, and the original aim had been to get the go-ahead when EU leaders meet next month.

The EU says that those talks about the future can only happen when there has been “sufficient progress” on the three issues of what the UK pays to the EU when it leaves, the rights for EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU, and also the Northern Ireland border.

Mr Barnier said the UK had confirmed that EU citizens “will be able to invoke their rights before the UK courts” but the sides had failed to agree over the role of the European Court of Justice in securing those rights.

Mrs May has indicated that the UK would not be subject to the court’s rulings after Brexit.

Mr Davis echoed her view, saying that the UK will be “a third country outside the European Union [and] it would not be right for this role be performed by the European Court of Justice”.

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Michel Barnier said the negotiators had had “a constructive week”

He gave an undertaking that the final withdrawal agreement would be incorporated into UK law, but Mr Barnier said the role of the ECJ was “indispensible” and was “a stumbling block” in the talks.

On the other main issues of Northern Ireland and the financial settlement, Mr Davis again said constructive work had been done – but added that that the UK was not at the stage of clarifying which financial commitments it accepted would need to be paid.

“We have begun drafting joint principles on preserving the common travel area” between the UK and Republic of Ireland, the Brexit secretary announced, adding: “We are both agreed that the Good Friday Agreement citizenship rights must be upheld.”

Mr Barnier said any deal in this area must “respect both the integrity of the single market… and the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts”.

Future relationship

Mr Davis said the prime minister’s speech was intended to “change the dynamic and instil real momentum” into the talks – and he hoped EU negotiators would secure “a mandate to explore” the transition idea.

But Mr Barnier insisted that the transition should be discussed in the second phase of negotiations.

“The prime minister’s speech in Florence has created a new dynamic in our negotiations and we have felt this during the negotiations this week,” the EU’s chief negotiator said.

“We have had a constructive week, yes, but we are not yet there in terms of achieving sufficient progress. Further work is needed in the coming weeks and coming months.

“But we will keep working in a constructive spirit until we reach a deal on the essential principles of the UK’s orderly withdrawal.”

Separately, the European Parliament said that EU leaders should postpone their decision on progress until after their October summit.

A draft resolution, to be voted on next week, said the European Parliament “is of the opinion that in the fourth round of negotiations sufficient progress has not yet been made on citizens’ rights, Ireland and Northern Ireland, and the settlement of the United Kingdom’s financial obligations.”

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