David Davis accuses EU of 'silly' approach to Brexit talks

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David Davis has accused Brussels and its chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier of having a "silly" approach to the talks on the UK's withdrawal from the European Union.

The Brexit Secretary said the EU was trying to put pressure on the UK over the demands for a so-called divorce fee, the subject of a bitter row during the latest round of talks.

His comments came as Theresa May sought to prevent a Tory rebellion ahead of the first Commons votes on the Brexit legislation.

The Prime Minister's allies have warned would-be rebels that they risk putting Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10 if they attempt to water down the so-called Repeal Bill.

The latest round of talks ended in an icy press conference, with Mr Barnier claiming there had been no "decisive" progress on key issues and suggesting there was a lack of trust as a result of the UK's refusal to accept financial obligations.

But Mr Davis told BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "They have set this up to try to create pressure on us on money, that's what it's about, they are trying to play time against money."

The negotiating teams. (Olivier Hoslet/AP/PA)
The negotiating teams. (Olivier Hoslet/AP/PA)

Comparing Brussels' 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."

He said Mr Barnier "wants to put pressure on us, which is why the stance this week in the press conference - bluntly, I think it looked a bit silly because there plainly were things that we had achieved".

Mr Davis insisted he was not branding Mr Barnier personally "silly", adding: "I said the commission would make itself look silly".

.@DavidDavisMP says UK won't allow EU to use time pressure to force Britain's hand in Brexit talks #marrpic.twitter.com/PBpErvsKfs

-- The Andrew Marr Show (@MarrShow) September 3, 2017

The Brexit Secretary dismissed as "nonsense" claims that the UK would pay a £50 billion fee to exit the EU.

The "strict position" was that there was "no enforceable" legal basis for the UK to pay money to Brussels but "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.