Monday 24 July 2017

UK rejects key EU demands before Brexit talks even begin

Up for an 'argument': Britain's Brexit Secretary David Davis Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Up for an 'argument': Britain's Brexit Secretary David Davis Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Tim Ross

Britain has rejected a raft of key European Union Brexit demands as Prime Minister Theresa May's government steps up its fight with leaders in Brussels before negotiations begin.

UK Brexit Secretary David Davis said he would argue with the EU over how to guarantee the rights of European citizens living in Britain, and predicted a row on the timetable for settling the nation's exit bill and the Border with Ireland.

The UK would not agree to the EU's demand that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) played the key role in upholding the rights of around 3.2 million European citizens living in Britain after Brexit, he said.

"We will have an argument about that," Mr Davis told ITV's 'Peston on Sunday' yesterday.

Mr Davis's hard line on the ECJ reflects Mrs May's promise to voters that European judges will have no role in the UK after Brexit and reinforces her argument to voters ahead of the June 8 election.

Mrs May has talked up her battle with Brussels, saying only her Conservative Party is strong enough to lead Britain through negotiations with a hostile EU.

Mr Davis said he wanted a swift agreement on citizens that "effectively freezes" the existing rights enjoyed by EU nationals living in the UK. Britain also wants UK expatriates resident elsewhere in Europe to be protected.

"What we are after is a very generous outcome," Mr Davis said. So EU citizens "will have the rights to welfare, they will have the rights to healthcare, they will have the rights to pensions - as they would if they were a permanent resident here anyway. The only rights they wouldn't have are those citizenship rights and the right to vote in a general election".

The issue for the UK is that any delay in resolving rights, such as a disagreement over the ECJ, could prompt the EU to withhold the discussion Mrs May wants over a wide-ranging free-trade deal to cover all goods and services.

The EU's proposed schedule for the talks sets out citizens' rights; Britain's exit payment; and the future Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic as issues that must be dealt with before talks on future trade can begin.

Mr Davis flatly rejected this timetable.

Bloomberg

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