‘They’ve done it before!’ David Davis warns EU Brexit punishment only around the corner

Brexit: David Davis issues warning about EU punishment

Negotiations on a UK-European Union trade deal are continuing amid widespread expectation an agreement is imminent. Eurosceptics across the UK are being cautious before backing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement. Former Brexit Secretary David Davis warned the EU will be quick to retaliate should Britain move away from the bloc’s laws in the future, regardless of any deal that might be signed today. 

He told LBC radio: “Are we in control of our own destiny? Are the Europeans able to set turnaround unilaterally and say ‘sorry, we don’t like the way you’ve changed those laws, we’re going to put a tariff on your exports’?

“They’ve done it before. They did it to Switzerland, who decided they wanted to change their immigration laws from Europe and they were threatened with the cancellation of 22 different trade treaties.

“So we they’ve got form, we’ve got to be very careful on that.

“And finally, who decides in this? I don’t mind arbitration arrangements between us as long as they are proper independent arbitration arrangements.

“Preferably neither European or British, somebody else.”

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In a sign of the political difficulties Mr Johnson may face, the European Research Group (ERG) of hardline pro-Brexit Tory MPs said they would scrutinise any deal in great detail.

The ERG said it would reconvene its so-called “star chamber” of legal experts to examine the text.

A statement issued by the group on Wednesday said: “Given that the new agreement is also highly complex, the star chamber will scrutinise it in detail, to ensure that its provisions genuinely protect the sovereignty of the United Kingdom after we exit the transition period at the end of this year.”

Talks in Brussels were focused on the details of fishing rights but both sides have indicated a Christmas Eve deal will be announced, bringing an end to months of wrangling just a week before current trading arrangements expire.

Boris Johnson has been in close contact with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in recent days as top-level efforts intensified to get a deal over the line.

Brexit: Details of deal set to be announced on Christmas Eve

The pair were expected to use a call on Christmas Eve to agree the deal.

The EU and Downing Street were poised to announce a deal on Wednesday night but that slipped as last-minute wrangling continued.

Negotiations continued through the night, fuelled by a late delivery of pizzas.

On Thursday morning a UK source said “they’re still going on fish” – the issue which has been one of the major stumbling blocks in the path to a deal.

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney told RTE Radio there had been “some sort of last-minute hitch” over the small print of the fisheries agreement but deal was still expected later.

Reports have suggested the UK has offered a deal where it will take back the right to land 25 percent of what the EU currently takes from British waters, phased in over five-and-a-half years.

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As the battle to spin the situation began, French sources reportedly claimed the UK had made “huge concessions”, especially on fisheries – a symbolically important issue on both sides of the Channel.

A deal covering the UK-EU trading relationship worth almost £670 billion will come as a relief to business leaders.

If, as expected, it provides for trade free from tariffs and quotas the economic shock of breaking away from the EU’s single market and customs union will be softened.

Any deal Mr Johnson secures is likely to pass through Parliament with Labour expected not to oppose it – Sir Keir Starmer has stressed that an agreement with the EU would be in the national interest.

Hilary Benn, the Labour chairman of the Commons Future Relationship with the EU Committee, told the BBC he had “no doubt” Parliament would back it because “the alternative is no-deal and that really doesn’t bear contemplation”.

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