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Davis attempts to smooth ruffled EU feathers after Brexit misspeak

Upate: David Davis has taken to Twitter to stress the importance of last week's joint agreement on Brexit, saying he will work with his EU counterparts to "get it converted into legal text as soon as possible".

The Brexit secretary – who rarely uses the social media platform – was speaking after it had become clear that his words at the weekend had caused huge upset to key players on the other side of the table, including Guy Verhofstadt.

Yesterday Davis tried to row back on his comments that the government's commitments over the Irish border, were "more of a statement of intent than it was legally binding".

Although he told LBC his words had been "completely twisted" Brussels-based diplomats began redrafting the wording of a declaration on Brexit, to include a legal stipulation.

The document now reads that negotiations "can only progress as long as all commitments undertaken during the first phase are respected in full and translated faithfully in legal terms as quickly as possible.”

It also states that during a transition period, “all existing Union regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures will apply ” – although the UK will no longer be part of EU decision-making.

“The European Council will calibrate its approach as regards trade and economic co-operation to avoid upsetting existing relations with other third countries," the document adds.

Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's representative in the Brexit negotiations, tweeted this afternoon that Davis' remarks had been "unhelpful and undermines trust".

"[European Parliament] text will now reflect this & insist agreement translated into legal text ASAP," he added. "After David Davis' unacceptable remarks it’s time the UK government restores trust. These amendments will further toughen up our resolution."

His tweet includes pictures of amendments, signed by himself, Manfed Weber, Gabrielle Zimmer and others, noting that Davis' statement on Sunday is a "risk to undermine the good faith built up during the negotiations" and that talks can only progress if "the UK government also fully respects the commitments it made in the joint report and they are fully translated into the draft agreement".

After @DavidDavisMP’s unacceptable remarks, it’s time the UK government restores trust. These amendements will further toughen up our resolution. pic.twitter.com/zKfVlJtOi5

— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) December 12, 2017

Davis' subsequent tweet described the MEP as "my friend".

Pleasure, as ever, to speak to my friend @guyverhofstadt – we both agreed on the importance of the Joint Report. Let's work together to get it converted into legal text as soon as possible. 1/2

— David Davis (@DavidDavisMP) December 12, 2017

The European Council will meet on Friday, where leaders of the EU27 will formally grant sufficient progress before agreeing new negotiating guidelines that will begin the second phase of the Brexit talks, finally opening it up to trade and transition.

Yesterday, Theresa May told MPs she expected work on transition to begin "immediately", and hoped it would be agreed in the first quarter. However it is understood that the EU is not planning to publish guidelines for trade talks until March.

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