Davis in ‘pos­i­tive’ talks on fly­ing trip to Brus­sels

Brexit sec­re­tary re­turns to Lon­don shortly af­ter say­ing it’s ‘time to get down to work’

The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and The Mearns Edition) - - News - ARJ singh

David Davis has spent up to an hour in Brexit talks with Euro­pean Com­mis­sion chief ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier be­fore of­fi­cials got on with the “se­ri­ous busi­ness” of de­tailed ne­go­ti­a­tions, a Govern­ment source said.

The Brexit sec­re­tary’s meet­ing dur­ing a fly­ing visit to Brus­sels in­cluded 10-15 min­utes alone and away from of­fi­cials with his op­po­site num­ber Mr Barnier, in dis­cus­sions de­scribed as “very friendly” and “pos­i­tive”.

Shortly af­ter declar­ing it was time to “get down to work” in a me­dia event along­side Mr Barnier, Mr Davis re­turned to Lon­don.

The source dis­missed sug­ges­tions Mr Davis had to leave talks early to get back to the House of Com­mons in time to vote against a Labour mo­tion to vastly in­crease the amount of de­bat­ing time for back­benchers’ leg­is­la­tion.

But the spec­u­la­tion came with the mi­nor­ity Govern­ment mired in dif­fi­cul­ties, with Theresa May set to or­der se­nior min­is­ters to keep Cab­i­net dis­cus­sions pri­vate af­ter a se­ries of leaks tar­get­ing Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond.

Labour said Mr Davis’s exit from Brus­sels af­ter a few hours, amid the storm of leaks at home, showed the Govern­ment is in “dis­ar­ray”, while the Lib­eral Democrats mocked the Brexit sec­re­tary for “skulk­ing back to the UK af­ter just half a day”.

Mr Davis had also spent time speak­ing to some of the 98 UK of­fi­cials car­ry­ing out the de­tailed talks, and a Govern­ment source in­sisted: “He didn’t go back for any­thing spe­cific, just that the timetable was al­ways set out this way, that he would go back this morn­ing, they had al­ready agreed that.”

Dur­ing their meet­ing, Mr Davis and Mr Barnier talked about task­ing their teams for talks, and said they were look­ing for­ward to get­ting into the sub­stance of the is­sues, the source said.

Mr Davis is ex­pected to re­turn for fur­ther talks with Mr Barnier on Thurs­day and a po­ten­tial press con­fer­ence to wrap up the sec­ond for­mal round of ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The four-day talks got un­der way with a ple­nary ses­sion fol­lowed by work­ing groups on the is­sues of cit­i­zens’ rights, borders, the UK’s fi­nan­cial set­tle­ment and sep­a­ra­tion is­sues, in­clud­ing the UK’s po­si­tion in re­la­tion to the Euro­pean civil nu­clear reg­u­la­tor, Eu­ratom, the source of Tory dis­quiet at home.

The mood among the 98 Bri­tish of­fi­cials in Brus­sels was said to be “de­ter­mined” and a source said they “cov­ered quite a lot of ground” in the talks, con­ducted in English and French.

A spokesman for the De­part­ment for Ex­it­ing the Euro­pean Union said: “As the sec­re­tary of state has said, it’s time to get down to busi­ness.

“Both sides have to­day got round the ta­ble and started the se­ri­ous busi­ness of work­ing through our po­si­tions in a num­ber of ar­eas.

“We recog­nise that this will be a com­pli­cated and tech­ni­cal process and we look for­ward to com­ing back to­mor­row to make progress on the work we have be­gun.”

David Davis, left, and Michel Barnier at the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions.

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