By Benjamin Fox
(EurActiv) — David Davis will host the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in London on Monday (5 February) just before the official talks on the UK’s exit from the EU and their future trade relations are due to resume next week.
In a post on Twitter on Friday (2 February), the Brexit Secretary said he was “looking forward to welcoming Michel Barnier to London on Monday. Important next step in our work to build new partnership between UK & EU.”
Barnier will also hold talks with Prime Minister Theresa May over a working lunch with Davis in Downing Street.
The meeting comes ahead of the next phase of talks in Brussels next week, between the 6 and 9 February, after EU leaders agreed in mid-December to move the talks along.
Davis has said he hopes to have an agreement on a transition period in time for an EU summit on 22 March. However, the May government has come under heavy attack from backbench Brexiteer MPs who have complained that being subject to EU laws without being able to influence them, while also paying into the EU budget, would make the UK a “vassal state”.
“The prime minister has an open mind when it comes to these negotiations,” a Downing Street spokesperson said on Friday.
For his part, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox insisted on Friday that the UK would not be involved in any customs union with the EU following Brexit.
The European Council will publish its guidelines in March on the future trading relationship.
Davis has defended a transition period as the only way the UK can negotiate trade pact with third countries. However, the UK has made little progress towards preparing the ground for this, and confirmed last year that it wants to roll over all of the existing EU-third country trade deals.
That has prompted speculation that May could seek an extension of the Article 50 process rather than a two year transition.
“This is actually likelier than it sounds because of the legal difficulty of rolling over more than 750 international agreements between the EU and third countries, a senior diplomatic source told EURACTIV.