The EU has confirmed that the deal reached with the UK last week, which would see talks on trade move on to the next phase, is not legally binding but that both sides have “shaken hands” on the agreement.
The European Commission called the deal with the UK a “gentleman’s agreement” between lead negotiators David Davis and Michel Barnier.
Brexit secretary David Davis clarified his stance on the issue of a hard border with EU member Ireland.
“What I actually said yesterday in terms was, we want to protect the peace process, want to protect Ireland from the impact of Brexit for them,” he said.
“I said this was a statement of intent which was much more than just legally enforceable.”
“Of course it’s legally enforceable under the withdrawal agreement but even if that didn’t happen for some reason, if something went wrong, we would still be seeking to provide a frictionless invisible border with Ireland.”
A European Commission spokeswoman confirmed that the issues of the Northern Ireland border, the divorce bill and citizens’ rights was not legally binding.
She said, “But we see the joint report of Michel Barnier and David Davis as a deal between gentlemen and it is the clear understanding that it is fully backed and endorsed by the UK government.”
Before adding, “President Juncker had a meeting with Prime Minister May last Friday morning to ascertain that this is precisely the case. They shook hands.”
The UK is due to leave the EU in March 2019.