Belfast Telegraph

Home News Politics

Brexit deal announcement delayed to 'allow DUP to sort themselves out': David Davis

Brexit Secretary David Davis said the agreement on phase one of talks with the EU was held off until Friday to "allow the DUP to sort themselves out".

Theresa May's hopes of getting the green light for trade talks were torpedoed at the start of last week by the DUP, which props up her Government, over concerns plans for the Irish border could lead to a new border drawn down the Irish Sea.

The Prime Minister was forced into a week of negotiations with the party, Ireland and the EU before finally getting a dramatic last-minute deal on Friday, paving the way for trade talks.

The DUP's Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said "strong DUP language" was included in the agreement.

Mr Davis said the phone call Mrs May had with DUP leader Arlene Foster last Monday, which appeared to undo the planned deal, was "a lot shorter than people say", and revealed his patience was tested by events.

He said: "We had to pick another day and we looked at Wednesday but Wednesday wasn't long enough for the DUP to sort themselves out so we made it Thursday, Friday morning."

Mr Davis also said he does not believe economic forecasts as he discussed the furore over the Government's failure to formally assess the likely impact of EU withdrawal on different sectors of the UK economy.

He was accused of misleading Parliament last week after admitting no impact assessments had been made because their usefulness would be "near zero" due to the scale of change which Brexit is likely to cause.

Mr Davis dismissed concerns that a soft border between the UK and EU on the island of Ireland could encourage people smuggling.

"That would be a very hard way to get into Britain, you'd have to be a fairly dumb people smuggler to come in that way," he said.

"Something like 50million people go through the country every year - tourists and so on - you go to Heathrow, look at it, there's huge numbers of people, it's much simpler to come in and pretend you're a tourist than to take a sort of elliptical route like that."

The Brexit Secretary said the UK would have talks with the Irish government about sharing security data to ensure illegal immigrants do not exploit the soft border.

The spat between Dublin and London emerged as Mrs May was chairing the first Cabinet meeting on Monday since her pre-dawn dash to Brussels to agree a way forward with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker last week.

With some Tory Brexiteers expressing concern that the UK has agreed to pay a £39 billion exit bill, let the European Court of Justice have a legal role for a further eight years, and pledged the full alignment on Irish border issues, the PM is saying she has been consistent in her approach.

Comments by Mr Davis that the UK would not pay its £39 billion exit bill unless it gets a trade deal are likely to have caused disquiet on the Continent.

Also in the interview Mr Davis said he does not have to be very clever to do his job as Brexit Secretary.

Mr Davis insisted "I do just have to be calm", revealing that last Monday's botched attempt at getting an agreement with the European Union to move to Brexit trade negotiations had tested that ability.

"What's the requirement of my job? I don't have to be very clever, I don't have to know that much, I do just have to be calm," he said.

"And that did test the calmness a bit, a little bit."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph