DAVID Davis has challenged Michel Barnier to speed up work on a new trade deal with Britain.
The Brexit Secretary delivered the demand at an hour-long breakfast meeting with the EU’s chief negotiator in Brussels.
The pair discussed the Irish backstop and future relations over croissants bought by the Frenchman from a local cafe.
But whilst Mr Davis championed more work on trade, eurocrats wanted to focus on unfinished withdrawal business including the Irish border and governance.
Afterwards a downbeat EU source said: “It’s like we are coming from two different places.”
A political declaration setting out the aims for a trade deal between the UK and EU is set to accompany the withdrawal agreement next March.
But work on the future relationship has crawled to a snail’s pace, with eurocrats complaining Britain still doesn’t have positions on key issues.
The meeting took place just days after the Brexit Secretary threatened to quit unless a time limit was added into the UK’s backstop proposal.
Ministers inserted an aspirational end date of 2021, but Brussels has rejected the notion that it could be legally binding.
Eurocrats released a series of slides presented to Member States which said there are “key questions unanswered” about Britain’s plan.
Eurocrats in £100m train gaffe
Eurocrats were left red-faced when a train carrying MEPs and officials to the EU Parliament in Strasbourg broke down.
Around 300 people making the trip from Brussels, which costs £100 million a year, were left stranded in fields for several hours.
Euro MPs complained the specially chartered train was “unpleasant and hot”, with food and water running out and toilets overflowing.
Lib Dem Catherine Bearder said: “We don’t want this mad trip to Strasbourg and this isn’t making us any happier.”
They raised concerns over “serious risks of fraud” and questioned whether a time-limited agreement could really be a backstop, but stopped short of an outright rejection.
Last week Mr Barnier warned the logjam over the Irish border could lead to a no deal crash out.
He told interns at the EU Parliament: “There is a serious risk of failure if we don’t fight together with the UK for a workable and operational solution.”
But the Frenchman had his own nightmare moment when he fluffed his lines at a press conference and appeared to rule out Britain staying in a customs union.
The chief negotiator was forced to issue a correction on Twitter after his remarks caused uproar in Whitehall.
Meanwhile, a Commission spokesman joked that Britain should follow the lead of a wandering cow and return to the bloc one day.
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Penka had been threatened with execution after straying across the border from Bulgaria into Serbia, which is outside the EU.
But she was saved after an outcry over strict Brussels food safety rules which included a personal plea from Sir Paul McCartney.
The spokesman said the happy ending showed that “leaving the EU and coming back to it, it’s OK”.
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