UK Brexit Secretary says 'divorce bill' row could last until end of negotiations

David Davis described recent talks with the EU as "tough, complex and at times confrontational"

UK Brexit Secretary says 'divorce bill' row could last until end of negotiations

David Davis. Picture by: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images

The UK's Brexit Secretary David Davis has suggested Britain could be arguing over the so-called Brexit bill until the very end of negotiations with the EU.

He told MPs the Brexit negotiations over the summer had been "tough, complex and at times confrontational".

Updating the House of Commons on its return from recess, Mr Davis said: "Nobody has ever pretended this would be simple or easy."

He admitted the EU and the UK had "significant differences" and "very different legal stances" over what Britain will owe Brussels on its departure.

But he insisted the talks so far had achieved "concrete progress on important issues".

Last week, in a tense press conference in Brussels, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier declared there had been no "decisive progress" on key divorce issues following the latest round of talks.

The EU has demanded the UK make "sufficient progress" on a multi-billion pound divorce settlement, the issue of the Irish border, and the rights of EU citizens living in Britain until talks can progress onto the future EU-UK trade relationship.

But Mr Davis signalled on Tuesday no final Brexit bill would be agreed until the eve of Britain's EU departure in March 2019.

Asked whether MPs would be granted a "separate and distinct" vote on the financial settlement agreed by the government, Mr Davis pointed to the already promised votes on the entire Brexit deal at the end of the negotiations.

He said: "My expectation is the money argument will go on for the full duration of the negotiation.

"The famous European line 'nothing's agreed until everything's agreed' will apply here.

"So there will be a vote and the House can reflect its view on the whole deal, including the money."

EU leaders will decide at a European Council summit in October whether the Brexit talks have made the "sufficient progress" needed to move onto the next phase of negotiations.

Mr Davis suggested the conclusion of the German election campaign at the end of this month could speed up progress.

"Germany, it's no secret, is the most powerful, most important nation in Europe," he said. "And the paymaster. (It) will have a big say in the outcome."

The Brexit Secretary also pushed back against being held to the EU's timetable for negotiations.

"We shouldn't pin ourselves to September or October or whatever, because in doing so you're doing the job of the people negotiating against you," he said.

In his statement to MPs, Mr Davis called on the EU to be "more imaginative and flexible in their approach" and "put people above process".