Ministers meet over Brexit progress as London pushes through legislation

Simon Coveney says the focus now is on the next stage

Ministers meet over Brexit progress as London pushes through legislation

Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney is pictured at an informal Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Tallinn, Estonia | Image: © European Union

Updated: 11.45

UK Brexit Secretary David Davis calling the Phase I Brexit deal a "statement of intent" was "unhelpful and undermines trust", the European Parliament's chief Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt has said.

The senior Brussels politican said the text confirming sufficient progress has been made to move negotiations on to trade "will now reflect this".

He insisted the agreement be "translated into legal text ASAP".

Mr Verhofstadt then tweeted pictures of the amendment.

It comes as the EU's chef Brexit negotiator has reiterated that the bloc "will fully support Ireland" as the talks move forward.

Michael Barnier has met with Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, tweeting afterwards:

European foreign affairs ministers are meeting in Brussels to hear a progress report from Mr Barnier.

Mr Coveney has described the meeting of the General Affairs Council as "another important step" ahead of a European Council meeting on Thursday which is due to sign off on Phase I of the Brexit process.

Minister Coveney says the focus now is on the next stage.

"Now I think we can move on and be positive about Phase II negotiations - trying to get what I think both Ireland and Britain would like to see, which is an all-encompassing, very ambitious trade agreement".

EU Withdrawal Bill

It comes as the British government is scrambling to avoid a defeat on key Brexit legislation before Prime Minister Theresa May travels to the EU summit on Thursday.

The EU Withdrawal Bill will return to the House of Commons on Tuesday and Wednesday, before which Downing Street announced it was accepting a cross-party amendment on so-called Henry VIII powers.

The UK government sometimes adds this provision to a bill to enable a government to repeal or amend it after it has become an Act of Parliament.

It enables primary legislation to be amended or repealed by subordinate legislation with or without further parliamentary scrutiny.

A "sifting" committee will now scrutinise those executive powers required to correct the UK's post-Brexit statute book.

"Meaningful vote" on Brexit deal

But it is amendment seven, calling for a "meaningful vote" on the Brexit deal, that is causing Westminster the most trouble.

Tabled by senior Tory backbencher Dominic Grieve, and publicly signed by 10 Conservative MPs, it is set to be put to a vote on Wednesday night.

Ministers have been consulting with Mr Grieve, a former UK attorney-general, as to how to address his concerns.

One Tory MP, recently accused of being a Brexit "mutineer", said: "Unless the government accepts it or gives some cast iron guarantee in effect to replicate it - we will push it to a vote."

The British government conceded the broad principle of putting the UK's exit deal into law last month.

The Withdrawal Agreement Implementation Bill (WAIB) will incorporate the finalised financial settlement, the Irish border deal, the citizens' rights deal and transition arrangements into British legislation.

But Mr Grieve has refused to withdraw his amendment, as it guarantees the WAIB would have to be passed as a pre-requisite for Mrs May signing off on the Brexit deal.

This would give the UK parliament the same sanctioning power as the European Parliament.

Potential Tory rebels have also been promised the issue will be dealt with in the report stage of the EU Withdrawal Bill, due in the new year.

But the group of MPs feels that promises made to them during the passage of the Article 50 Bill were not kept.