David Davis tells Commons: Divorce bill talks could last "the duration" of Brexit negotiation


Things got "a bit tetchy", Davis admitted (Source: Getty)

A stand-off over the UK's financial settlement to leave the EU could last "the full duration of the negotiations", the Brexit secretary said today.

David Davis told parliamentarians the two sides had "very different positions" over the so-called divorce bill, but insisted progress was being made- albeit to laughter from opposition MPs.

The one area where no real movement had been made was on the thorny issue of how much the UK would pay on exiting the bloc. 

“My expectation is that the money argument will go on for the full duration of negotiations," he told the Commons.

Davis said: "We have been clear that the UK and EU will have financial obligations to each other that will survive our exit from the European Union. In July, the Commission set out the EU's position. We have a duty to our tax payers to interrogate that position rigorously, and that's what we did line by line...

"It's clear that the two sides have very different legal stances. But as we said in the Article 50 letter, the settlement should be in accordance with law and in the spirit of the UK's continues partnership with the EU."  

Davis has previously dismissed claims the UK would pay a £50bn settlement fee, however Jean-Claude Juncker has indicated that Brussels would not accept anything less than £60bn. 

The MP for Haltemprice and Howden was quizzed by MPs on both sides of the house, concerned that there is not now enough time to agree trade deals.

He dodged questions over a transitional period for the customs union and single market, but said the government was "ready to do anything we can to speed up the process". However his EU counterparts were very "stiff", Davis said.

Labour MP Chris Leslie asked the Brexit secretary whether the government would put the final sum to parliament before agreeing it with his Brussels counterparts. 

“I ask him because next Monday he’s expecting the House… to vote for a money resolution which authorises in advance any expenditure, and worse to vote for a ways of means resolution to authorise ‘any tax’," Leslie said, saying that parliament would be signing "a blank cheque" in so doing. 

But Davis dismissed this, saying the EU Withdrawal Bill "doesn’t cover separation payments", adding "there will be a vote of this house on the final settlement."

Just yesterday the Prime Minister's spokeswoman said Theresa May was "ready to intensify" negotiations, amid concerns that too little progress is being made. Reports suggest talks may be ramped up and a group of British negotiators semi-permanently deployed to Brussels so talks can become "continuous". 

She is now expected to make a mystery "intervention" on 21 September on the matter