The European Union’s top Brexit legislator has denounced Britain’s Brexit Minister David Davis for his comments that last week’s deal between the EU and the UK was merely “a statement of intent.”
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, said on Tuesday that Davis’s description of the agreement was “unacceptable.” He called the deal a “legally enforceable text.”
The European lawmaker added that Britain’s approach undermines the trust that is “necessary in such negotiations.”
Davis had stated that the deal stuck on Friday in Brussels to seal separation arrangements and open talks on future relations was a “statement of intent” rather than “legally enforceable.”
Verhofstadt said the EU will toughen its position on trade talks, following the comments made by Davis. He said EU leaders would now insist on the divorce terms being legally binding.
“I have seen a hardening of the position of the council (EU leaders), and there will be a hardening position of the parliament,” which will vote on a Brexit motion on Wednesday, Verhofstadt said.
“It’s clear that the European Council will be more strict now in saying… we want that these commitments are translated into legal texts before we make progress in the second phase,” he stated.
German Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth also criticized the British negotiator’s approach.
“One should act and speak exactly the same way here as in London,” Roth said on the sidelines of a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday.
He said the British government’s communication in Brussels was “somewhat different” to its communication in London.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman, James Slack, insisted that the UK government was “fully committed to keeping its side of the deal.”
“The agreement that was reached last week is a political agreement but that will move forward into a Withdrawal Agreement which will be legally binding,” he said.
The EU-UK agreement paves the way for the beginning of the second phase of negotiations that deal with financial and security matters.
An EU summit starting Thursday must approve the Brexit agreement for the negotiations to move on to the next phase, and the parliament also has to back the overall agreement for Britain to leave the EU on March 29, 2019.