DAVID Davis has accused the EU of playing “time against money” during Brexit negotiations as it tries to exert pressure on the UK to agree a divorce bill.
The Brexit Secretary also said Brussels had made itself look “silly” by insisting that there had been no progress in the talks.
“They’ve set this up to try and create pressure on us on money, that’s what this is about. They’re trying to play time against money,” Mr Davis told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.
Comparing the EU’s demands to a hotel bill presented to a guest on checking out, Mr Davis said: “We are going through it line by line and they are finding it difficult because we have got good lawyers.”
The so-called “Brexit bill” has emerged as a major stumbling block in the talks on Britain’s split from the European Union.
The EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, said at the end of the third round of talks in Brussels that there had been “no decisive progress” on key issues.
But Mr Davis said: “Bluntly, I think it looked a bit silly, because there plainly were things that we’ve achieved.”
“The Commission puts itself in a silly position if it says nothing has been done,” he added, stressing he was not branding Mr Barnier personally “silly”.
The EU wants to make “sufficient progress” on three key divorce issues – the “Brexit bill”, or the UK’s financial obligations to the EU; the citizens’ rights; and the Irish border – before moving on to discussing a future relationship and trade deals.
Mr Davis said money was “the thing that frightens them most” and insisted he would now allow the EU to use time pressures to force Britain’s hand in order to begin trade talks in October.
His comments came as Theresa May sought to prevent a Tory rebellionahead of the first Commons votes on the Brexit legislation.
The first debate on the so-called Repeal Bill, which ensure EU law will no longer apply in the UK, takes place on Thursday, and the Prime Minister has warned would-be rebels in her party not to water down the legislation.
Mr Davis insisted the legislation “is about ensuring continuity” and urged Remainers and Leavers alike to support it.
He did not put a figure on the Brexit bill, but said a report in the Sunday Times that Mrs May had secretly agreed a £50bn figure was “nonsense” and “completely wrong”.
The Brexit Secretary said it was likely Britain would continue to pay some money into the EU budget after Brexit, but that the sums would not be large over the medium to long term.
While there was “no enforceable” legal basis for the UK to pay money to Brussels, Mr Davis said, “we are a country that meets its international obligations – but they have got to be there”.
Those obligations “may not be legal ones, they may be moral ones or political ones”, he said. – news.sky.com