David Davis 'wins internal battle' with Olly Robbins over Brexit negotiations

Government set to target detailed trade arrangements with the European Union ahead of next March’s exit dates  

Photo: PA

By John Ashmore

11 Apr 2018

British civil servants are set to begin detailed negotiations on the future trade relationship with Brussels after David Davis won out in a key internal battle. 

The Brexit secretary reportedly sent a letter last night to Whitehall officials urging them to come up with key Brexit goals ahead of an intense summer of talks with the European Commission. 

Davis is said to have clashed with Theresa May's chief Brexit negotiator, Olly Robbins, over how much of the future relationship can be agreed by Brexit day next March.


Government set to target detailed trade arrangements with the European Union ahead of next March’s exit dates. Robbins apparently believes a broad, high-level agreement is preferable, while Mr Davis wants to see departments come up with detailed proposals as soon as possible.

“David Davis wants to set demanding targets, to be achieved before the Withdrawal Agreement is signed off, in order to meet the legitimate expectations of Parliament. This letter does that,” a government source told the Daily Telegraph.

The Telegraph highlighted that the document covering Britain’s future relationship with the EU is unlikely to be part of the official withdrawal treaty, but would be appended as an annex to the agreement.

Both EU and UK negotiators say that the detail of this is still up for negotiation, with divisions on the EU side over how much clarity to agree with the British before the Article 50 period expires.

This could range from a “scoping” document of the kind that currently covers the forthcoming EU-New Zealand trade deal, to something far more substantial. Other political co-operation agreements are likely to cover areas including as aviation, data-sharing, security and foreign policy.

A DExEU spokesperson told the paper the government was focused on delivering "a comprehensive deal" before Brexit day that would "sets out in detail" the terms of our future UK-EU partnership. 

"That work is already underway, with talks continuing in Brussels on issues related to the Northern Ireland/Ireland border. All parts of government continue to work closely and effectively to ensure we deliver on the will of the British people and leave the European Union," the spokesman added.

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