The European Union on Tuesday warned Britain against a “retreat” after comments by a senior British minister that his country would not honor its EU financial commitments agreed this week if a trade pact with the bloc could not be concluded.
The British minister in charge of the affairs of Brext David Davies raised concern on Sunday that the initial agreement reached with the European Union on Friday is a “agreement of intent” and not “legally binding.”
“All the points of our agreement are now closed,” the EU’s chief negotiator for the Brussels file, Michel Barnier, said under the agreement reached with British Prime Minister Theresa May, paving the way for a European summit next Friday to open trade talks.
We will not accept any retreat from Britain,” Barnier told a news conference.
Asked about Davies’ comments that a trade deal could be reached in the coming months and came into effect a minute after Britain left the bloc, Barnier said it was “not possible.” Davis knows it well.
In a speech to EU leaders ahead of the upcoming summit, European Union President Donald Tusk said there was now a “heated race against the clock” to reach agreement on future relations.
In turn, official Brixt file in the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt said that Davis’s remarks “unacceptable” and could lead to “complicate the position” of the European Union. “It is clear that the European Council will be tougher now in putting forward (…) we want these commitments translated into legal texts before proceeding to the second phase,” he said.
On Wednesday, the European Parliament is due to vote on a draft resolution endorsing Brexit, in which Davies was named unusually, saying his remarks “risk undermining good intentions built during the negotiations.”
On Sunday, Davis told the BBC that Britain would not pay a financial settlement of between 40 and 45 billion euros (47 to 52 billion dollars) reached last week, if no “trade agreement” was reached upon its withdrawal from the European Union in March 2019.
But Brussels said Friday’s agreement between May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had become “an agreement between respected masters” and would be legally binding as part of Britain’s agreement to divorce the bloc.
The leader of the Green Party in the Belgian European Parliament, Philippe Lambert, took a tougher stance.
“How can Britain be seriously considered internationally if it acts as a gangster in international relations?” Lambert said.
Davis tried to remove confusion about his awkward remarks Monday.
“Of course, the agreement is legally binding,” the senior British official said, but reiterated that the absence of a trade agreement meant a lack of agreement on all other issues.