The Brexit agreement struck by Theresa May last week must be turned into a legally binding treaty if the UK wants to progress to trade talks, the EU is set to insist – after the British government appeared to row back from its commitments just days after it was agreed. The Independent understands that the European Parliament is to revise its red lines following comments by David Davis that the agreement was just a “statement of intent” and claims in the Commons by Ms May that the UK would not be bound to pay its divorce bill if no trade talk was inked. Meanwhile, a leaked draft copy of the European Council’s text on last week’s agreement, set to be agreed by EU27 heads of state and government on Friday, shows the countries will insist that the UK start drafting the deal into law.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said she could withdraw her offer of a massive Brexit ‘divorce bill’ of around £40 billion if the European Union fails to agree on a trade deal with the UK. Her statement, made to MPs in the House of Commons on Monday, comes after the European Commission and Brexit Secretary David Davis confirmed the agreement so far is not legally binding, with Davis describing it as a “statement of intent.” The agreement includes a so-called ‘divorce bill’ coving Britain’s alleged financial commitments to the bloc, and promises to keep the Irish border open through “regulatory alignment” with the EU. Mr. Davis has insisted the UK would only be “seeking” to stick to the deal even if the EU was uncooperative in the second stage of negotiations. However, Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, has since attacked David Davis for “undermining trust,” demanded the deal is made binding and “translated into legal text” as soon as possible.
David Davis was forced to change tack on the legality of the Brexit deal on Tuesday as he admitted the agreement would become British law as “soon as possible” following an avalanche of criticism from EU officials for comments he made this weekend. Senior diplomats and MEPs, along with the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator, unleashed a series of rebukes against Mr Davis over his suggestion that the UK could backtrack on promises made in the divorce agreement, which was finally agreed on Friday after months of deadlocked talks. Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit coordinator, accused the Brexit secretary of scoring an “own goal” with the “unacceptable” comments and claimed he had “really undermine[d] trust” between Brussels and London.
EU LEADERS will refuse to give Britain a preferential trade deal in case it upsets other countries, according to a leaked internal document. A draft text set to be agreed by the 27 member states at a summit on Friday, appears to rule out a strong, bespoke trade deal for Britain. It comes after Theresa May won an agreement with Brussels last week to move talks on to post-Brexit trade with the bloc. But EU leaders are thought to be concerned existing trading partners like Canada will cry foul if the UK gets a better deal. The draft text states: “The European Council will calibrate its approach as regards trade and economic co-operation to avoid upsetting existing relations with other third countries”. The text, leaked to The Times, also insists Britain will have to abide by all EU regulations during any transition period while being barred from taking part in decisions. It says “all existing Union regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures will apply” during that time. And the same text threatens to halt trade talks with the UK unless the withdrawal terms agreed by Theresa May become law.
David Davis has scrambled to salvage relations with Brussels after he was accused of damaging trust in the Brexit talks by making inflammatory comments. EU leaders have warned the British government against backtracking on promises made in Brussels after Davis suggested a Brexit breakthrough reached last week had no legal status. Senior EU figures voiced irritation on Tuesday with Davis’s claim over the weekend that the UK’s concessions in an agreement struck last week to move talks on were merely a statement of intent without legal backing. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, warned that the UK’s divorce deal with the EU depended on the British government sticking to an interim deal made last week on Ireland, citizens’ rights and the financial settlement. “We will have a final agreement only if the final commitments taken by Theresa May and the British government on Friday are respected,” he told journalists. “And we will be vigilant; we will not accept any backtracking from the UK.” A senior ally of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said the British government risked losing the EU’s good faith. “The first phase of #Brexit negotiations was meant to build trust,” tweeted Manfred Weber, the head of the centre-right bloc in the European parliament. “By downgrading this agreement to a statement of intent, the UK government is putting our trust at risk. The EU27 & UK must make it clear on Thursday that the agreement is binding for both sides.”
David Davis has rushed to repair damage caused by his comments about the breakthrough Brexit deal not being legally binding after Brussels politicians warned he was “undermining trust” in the negotiating process. European Parliament Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt lashed out at the Brexit Secretary on Tuesday and revealed the body would toughen up its red lines on Brexit after Mr Davis said the joint text, agreed only on Friday, was “much more a statement of intent than it was a legally enforceable thing”. Mr Davis found himself telephoning Mr Verhofstadt to smooth things over after two European Parliament amendments, signed by the leaders of every non-eurosceptic political group in the house, were proposed in response to his comments. One of the amendments to the Parliament’s Brexit motion says negotiations “can only progress during the second phase if the UK Government also fully respects the commitments it made”. A second says “comments made like those by David Davis calling the outcome of phase one of the negotiations a mere ‘statement of intent’, risk to undermine the good faith that has been built during the negotiations”.
MEPs have called on Theresa May to make a statement slapping down David Davis to restore trust after his “unacceptable” comments hardened EU demands in Brexit talks yesterday. In a highly unusual step illustrating the depth of anger at the Brexit secretary’s comment that last week’s “phase one” withdrawal agreement was a “statement of intent”, the European parliament will identify him today as a threat to continuing negotiations. “Comments like those made by David Davis calling the outcome of phase one of the negotiations a mere ‘statement of intent’ risk to undermine the good faith that has been built during the negotiations,” said a resolution, to be voted on today, tabled by all the parliament’s main political groups.
Theresa May has insisted the Government is “listening” to potential Tory rebels as the Prime Minister was warned she faces a humiliating defeat on flagship Brexit legislation. If neither ministers or unhappy Conservative MPs back down, the Government will face a crunch vote on the EU Withdrawal Bill on Wednesday night. As many as 20 Tory MPs could defy the Prime Minister by backing an amendment calling for a “meaningful” vote on any Brexit deal – a rebellion sizeable enough to bring the Government’s first defeat on the key bill. MPs from across the House of Commons have been urged to back the amendment, brought by Conservative former minister Dominic Grieve, and likely to be backed by Labour, the SNP and Liberal Democrats.
The government is facing the threat of a defeat by rebel backbenchers when MPs vote on its flagship EU legislation. Led by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve – a Conservative MP – the rebels want to insert a legal guarantee that MPs should get a vote on any final Brexit deal before it is finalised. The amendment, which could be backed by Labour, will be debated later. Theresa May said she was listening to MPs’ concerns, while Brexit Secretary David Davis has written to Tory MPs. The government has no majority in the Commons and is vulnerable to a revolt by its MPs. Ahead of the vote, Mr Davis wrote to all Conservative members on Wednesday morning promising “a meaningful vote” on Brexit. He said there will be a vote in Parliament “as soon as possible” after an agreement with the EU is reached, adding: “Our entire approach to the bill has been to listen to MPs.”
The European Parliament is set to push for an ‘association agreement’ alongside a trade deal with Brexit Britain that would mean the UK handing money over to Brussels even after the country has left the bloc. They are set to demand “commensurate financial contributions” according to the resolution which has been seen by The Telegraph. This is on top of the £35 billion+ Brexit bill that has been confirmed that the British government will pay the EU if a deal is agreed. No deal would mean no Brexit bill. Theresa May stood up in Parliament the other day and insisted that “the days of paying vast sums to the EU every year are coming to an end”. Will the government stick to this or will the UK be coughing up money to Brussels for years to come? The EU is desperate to fill its financial blackhole once the UK leaves – but the idea of Britain continuing to funnel money into their coffers should be a non-starter.
BRITAIN has subsidised other EU nations over defence for years, a report reveals. It says member states “shortchanged” their own defence by nearly £340 billion between 2012 and 2016. But the UK has propped up the protection of Europe by £17billion over the same period, according to the Henry Jackson Society think-tank. Its report, What the European Union owes the United Kingdom, says our military contribution should be taken into account in talks about the Brexit divorce bill. Last month chief European Commission negotiator Michel Barnier infuriated many MPs by claiming Britain was abandoning the EU’s fight against Islamic State. EU leaders are also committed to creating a European Army, a move the UK has resisted for fear it would undermine Nato. We are one of only five Nato members to meet the alliance’s spending target of two per cent of GDP, alongside the US, Greece, Estonia and Poland. The HJS says EU states that failed to meet the two per cent Nato target include wealthy Germany, which underspent by £106billion, Italy (£67billion), Spain (£56billion) and France (£18billion).
“The UK position is clear, straight-forward common sense. The only thing that astonishes me is that May’s government cannot put that across”, opines UKIP’s Tim Aker MEP. Mr Aker has tabled a motion in the European Parliament on behalf of his Group, EFDD. The motion scheduled for debate on Wednesday 13 December, states… “contrary to what is often stated, the position of the UK government is in concept both clear and straight-forward, namely that the UK wants: freedom of movement of capital, goods and services (which is what ‘free trade’ really means); freedom from the Court of Justice of the European Union; freedom to enter into trade agreements with third countries; freedom to control its borders (including its territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone); no free movement of people given that this involves: i) access to public services, benefit and employment rights (because of the massive problems arising from granting such access to hundreds of millions of people from countries with very different living standards), and ii) the imposition of refugees and asylum-seekers on member states whose people do not want them.” Mr Aker is astonished that no one from David Davis downwards has set this out before. “Any case is only as good as the brains of those who present it”, says Mr Aker.
POLAND’S new Prime Minister has set himself up on a collision course with the EU as he hit out at the boc’s plans for a “multi-speed” Europe. In his first policy speech since being sworn in yesterday, Mateusz Morawiecki said he was opposed to a multi-speed Europe and Warsaw wants to have a say in forming the future of the bloc. Deeper eurozone integration has been dubbed a “multi-speed” Europe because it would lead to different rates of convergence within the 28-member bloc. Morawiecki said Warsaw’s economic policy – based on generous public spending and a growing focus on domestic capital instead of foreign investment – should not change. “We don’t want further divisions … we oppose splitting of Europe between those are who better and those who are inferior.”
Households and motorists have been warned to expect sharp rises in gas bills and petrol prices after a “perfect storm” of supply problems as the winter freeze begins. The shutdown of the North Sea’s most important oil and gas pipeline system on Monday was compounded by an explosion at a major processing facility in Austria, which is the main point of entry for Russian gas into Europe. After the incidents, wholesale gas prices hit their highest level for six years, rising by more than 50pc in the space of 24 hours, raising fears that the increase will be passed on to customers. Oil prices have climbed so steeply that motoring organisations are warning of a 3p per litre increase at the pumps by Christmas. MPs have told energy companies that any hike in bills for consumers would be a “disgrace” because wholesale prices are agreed well in advance.
Families face paying 3p extra for a litre of petrol by Christmas – on top of higher energy prices – after two catastrophic incidents threatened winter fuel supplies. The North Sea’s most important oil and gas pipeline – carrying 40 per cent of mainland Britain’s crude oil from the North Sea – had to be shut down after cracks were found. As a result, the price of a barrel of Brent crude rose to $65.56 (£49.23), a level not seen since the summer of 2015. Last night, the RAC warned the disruption could push the cost of petrol and diesel at the pumps up by 3p per litre. Yesterday there was also an explosion at a major gas transfer station in Austria – the main point of entry for Russian gas into Europe. In the wake of the blast, UK gas prices hit their highest level for six years, threatening higher bills this winter. The double blow comes as Britain goes through a cold snap, pushing up demand for domestic heating.
BRITS faced a double fuel bill blow last night — with gas and oil prices set to soar. It followed a blast at a major European gas supply hub and the closure of a key North Sea pipeline. One person was killed and 18 injured yesterday in the explosion at Baumgarten an der March, Austria — which sparked a huge blaze, above. Hundreds of firefighters fought the flames as the plant near the border with Slovakia was evacuated and shut down. Gas prices in Europe soared on concerns about supply. In Britain, gas for immediate delivery rose 35 per cent to 92p per therm — a level not seen since 2013. Amit Gudka, co-founder of Bulb energy, said: “If wholesale prices stay high then gas bills could increase by three to five per cent.”
Theresa May has pledged to use cash from the £13 billion foreign aid budget to tackle the scourge of plastic polluting our seas. At a climate change summit in Paris yesterday, she said she was ‘very concerned’ by the impact of waste on marine life. She pointed to Government action on carrier bags and banning microbeads – campaigns championed by the Mail – but said there was more to be done. ‘We are looking to see what more we can do… to use overseas aid money to ensure that we are doing what I think everybody wants, which is reducing this terrible pollution that is taking place and affecting marine life so devastatingly,’ she said.
Kim Jong-un has vowed to make North Korea the ‘world’s strongest nuclear power’ as the reclusive nation shows little sign of reining in its weapons programme. The North has rattled the international community with a flurry of missile launches and its largest ever nuclear test in recent months in its bid to develop a warhead capable of striking the United States. Pyongyang’s dictator told workers behind the recent test of a new missile the country ‘will victoriously advance and leap as the strongest nuclear power and military power in the world,’ in a ceremony on Tuesday, according to state news agency KCNA. His comments come as global powers scramble for a response to the crisis, with the US backing stringent economic and diplomatic sanctions on Kim’s regime to halt its nuclear drive. But the recluse North has continued to lob missiles, posing a major challenge to US President Donald Trump.