LONDON — David Davis has said the UK’s refusal to commit to a figure for the EU divorce bill until later this year has made the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier “quite cross” with British negotiators.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday morning before the government’s customs union transition plan is published, the Brexit Secretary claimed the government was using “constructive ambiguity” as a deliberate tactic and “it will be difficult to read what we intend.”
Davis said that while the UK “will meet any real international obligations… there won’t be a number [agreed for the divorce bill] by October or November.”
He would not be drawn on what the number would likely be, or when it would be published: “I’m not going to do the negotiation on air,” he said.
Barnier has previously said talks on future trade relations between the UK and the EU will not start until “sufficient progress” has been made on citizens’ rights, the divorce bill and the Irish border.
The Brexit secretary said in an interview with LBC that “Michel is getting quite cross with us” over the UK’s reluctance to reach an agreement on the size of the divorce bill until later this year. The money owed to the EU by the UK could come to a grand total of £36 billion (€40 billion), according to recent reports.
Brexit means transition
The Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) will today publish its plan to leave the customs union and negotiate a “new” customs deal which will be in place temporarily until a long-term arrangement is implemented.
Speaking about the proposed customs union transitional arrangement, Davis said that it will be as “close as we can to the current arrangements” and that the length will most likely be “two years, maybe a bit shorter.”
He said that the UK should have the ability to negotiate and sign trade deals in this period, and “the reason we can’t sign now is because of something the duty of sincere cooperation.”
Davis also said the government does not believe that the European Court of Justice should have any jurisdiction over the UK after Brexit and that an “international arbitration” position paper will be published next week.
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