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United Kingdom minister: European Union commission criticism of Brexit talks was 'silly'

03 September 2017

David Davis has accused negotiator Michel Barnier of trying to put pressure on Britain over the divorce fee.

Mr Davis believes any transitional period, during which the United Kingdom would continue to enjoy numerous benefits of the single market and customs union, should be limited to a maximum of two years, but a three-year spell - favoured by Chancellor Philip Hammond - would allow the lump sum to be split into smaller annual payments.

"I think there is frustration that we have not been able to get on that longer-term issue, that we're stuck on this separation issue, and we're not able to get on to the issues that will matter in the longer term for the future prosperity of the United Kingdom and the people of Europe", he said.

"I'm not going to allow them to use that time pressure to force us to do x, y or z".

Mr Davis said the United Kingdom meant to go through the bill "line by line" and added: "They are finding it hard because we have got good lawyers".

"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".

"We put people before process, what they're in danger of doing is putting process before people".

Protesters wearing European Union flag masks
Protesters wearing European Union flag masks

"We meet worldwide obligations - also want to leave in orderly and smooth manner and in order to do that it's best to leave on amicable terms, on proper terms on negotiated terms and don't just walk away", he added. "They're trying to play time against money".

Theresa May is set to approve a politically explosive Brexit bill of up to £50bn after the Conservative Party conference in October in an effort to kickstart trade talks with the European Union.

But May and her Brexit secretary, David Davis, risk accusations that they are keeping their intentions secret to protect the prime minister from attacks by Eurosceptics at a conference where she will fight to re-establish credibility.

Ahead of parliament's return on Monday, Davis also used his interview with Marr to urge backbenchers from both parties to back the government's repeal bill, which critics say will grant sweeping powers to ministers to change legislation without parliamentary scrutiny.

Davis clashed with European Union counterpart Michel Barnier this week over the Brexit divorce bill, which the bloc has put at 100 billion euros ($118 billion), a figure Britain rejects.

"I know, I know, but you go through line-by-line". "Starting the new parliamentary session with the withdrawal bill shows that it is now the job of all MPs, including my former colleagues on the Stronger In campaign, to respect the will of the people and get the best possible deal for Britain", he said.

"It amounts to a trouncing of democracy and people will not accept it", she added.

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United Kingdom minister: European Union commission criticism of Brexit talks was 'silly'