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BREXIT

EU to toughen Brexit stance on ‘gangster’ Britain, MEPs vow

The EU will harden its position on Brexit trade talks after London said it would only pay its divorce bill if it got a deal, leading European parliamentarians said on Tuesday.

EU to toughen Brexit stance on 'gangster' Britain, MEPs vow
AFP

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's Brexit coordinator, said EU leaders meeting for a summit this week would now insist on the divorce terms being legally binding.

He condemned “unacceptable” comments by Britain's Brexit Minister David Davis in which Davis said a deal struck to seal separation arrangements and open talks on future relations was a “statement of intent” rather than “legally enforceable.”

“I have seen a hardening of the position of the council (EU leaders), and there will be a hardening position of the parliament,” which will vote on a Brexit motion on Wednesday, Verhofstadt told reporters at the parliament in Strasbourg, France.

“It's clear that the European Council will be more strict now in saying… we want that these commitments are translated into legal texts before we make progress in the second phase.”

Verhofstadt added that Davis's comments were an “own goal” that was “undermining the trust that is necessary in such negotiations.”

The European Parliament was now adding two amendments to the resolution it will vote on on Wednesday dealing with Davis's comments.

The EU negotiating guidelines that national leaders are set to adopt in Brussels on Friday will meanwhile say phase two talks can only start once the divorce commitments are “translated faithfully in legal terms,” according to a draft seen by AFP.

The EU leaders will also say that talks on trade will not start until March, to give the British government time to provide “further clarity” on what it wants from the future relationship.

Philippe Lamberts, the Green group's representative in the European Parliament's Brexit steering group, said Britain's attitude now would hurt its attempts to reach post-Brexit trade deals with other countries, for example Australia.

“How can Britain be taken seriously globally if it behaves like a gangster in its international relationships?” Lamberts said.

TRAVEL NEWS

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

OPINION UK-France travel crisis will only be solved when the British get real about Brexit

The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.

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