UK Brexit minister David Davis has come under fire for heading back to his country only hours after beginning the second round of negotiations with the European Union (EU) in Brussels, Belgium. Labour said Davis’ hasty return showed that the government of Prime Minister Theresa May was in “disarray” following last month’s general election and could no longer guarantee a good Brexit deal.
“Since the election, the government has been in disarray. There is no agreed cabinet position on vital Brexit issues, the negotiating team is not prepared and the prime minister has lost her authority. Meanwhile the clock is ticking and the risks are increasing day by day,” said Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary.
“We need a fresh approach and to see real progress in negotiations. That means engaging with the substance of talks. And it means resolving vital issues such as citizens’ rights that have already dragged on for too long,” he added. Davis led a team of 98 UK officials, who had traveled to the European Commission’s headquarters to discuss the terms of Brexit with Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier.
Ironically, he left the talks soon after telling reporters that it was time “to get down to work” and “to make this a successful negotiation.” May’s weakened political position following the June 8 general election has allowed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to seek a more active role in Brexit talks.
After returning to London, Davis voted twice with the government to against a Labour motion that would have increased the amount of time given to backbenchers’ legislation. The move prompted speculation that Davis had left merely to take part in the vote, a point that was rejected by a spokeswoman for the minister. Noting that it was up to the 98 officials to negotiate on behalf of Davis, the spokeswoman said he would return to Brussels on Thursday.
“David Davis and Michel Barnier will be updated throughout the talks, before returning to negotiating table later this week,” she said. Unsatisfied with the explanation, however, the Liberal Democrats mocked Davis for “skulking back to the UK after just half a day.”