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Brexit deal must be binding; EU chief in legal bid push; Davis gaffe 'affected trust'.

Byline: ANDREW WOODCOCK and ARJ SINGH

THE European Parliament is to demand last week's Brexit deal is converted into a legally-binding text as soon as possible.

Chief co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt said suggestions from David Davis that the agreement was not fixed had undermined trust in the UK among MEPs.

In a TV interview on Sunday, Mr Davis appeared to suggest Britain could seek to alter agreements on divorce issues including the Irish border, citizens' rights and the UK's PS39billion financial settlement.

He claimed the deal was "much more a statement of intent than it was a legally enforceable thing".

After the Irish government branded the comment "bizarre", the Brexit Secretary took to the airwaves once again on Monday, saying commitment on the border issue was in fact "much more than just legally enforceable".

The European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas later confirmed the joint report published last week by Mr Davis and EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier was "not legally binding" until it is incorporated in a formal Article 50 Withdrawal Agreement, expected in the autumn next year.

But asked if it was therefore possible for either side to back down on it, he stressed it was regarded in Brussels as "a deal between gentlemen" which was "fully backed and endorsed" by the UK government.

Mr Schinas noted Prime Minister Theresa May and Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had shaken hands on it.

Mr Verhofstadt suggested MEPs would like to bring forward moves to make the agreement official.

He said in a tweet: "Remarks by David Davis that Phase One deal last week not binding were unhelpful and undermine trust.

"European Parliament text will now reflect this and insist agreement translated into legal text ASAP." Mr Verhofstadt said the UK must "stick to its commitments" and put them into a draft Withdrawal Agreement "as soon as possible" if there is to be progress in negotiations on trade.

He has tabled two amend-ments for MEPs to consider in the European Parliament, one of which says Mr Davis' comments "risk undermining good faith".

Another calls on Britain to "fully respect" last week's Brexit deal.

Responding, Mrs May's spokesman told a regular Westminster briefing: "The agreement reached is a political agreement but it will move forward into a Withdrawal Agreement that is legally binding.

"The commitment is clear, we don't want a hard border. I think everybody understands that."

irish@mgn.co.uk

to " PS39bn has been agreed as a figure for UK's Brexit financial settlement

CAPTION(S):

DEMAND Guy Verhofstadt and, left, tweet

BLUNDER David Davis

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 13, 2017
Words:422
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