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EU accuses Davis and Johnson of leaving Brexit 'mess'

Luke James
Brussels correspondent

EU chief Donald Tusk has delivered a scathing parting shot to David Davis and Boris Johnson after they dramatically resigned from the government over Brexit.

The president of the European Council, which is made-up of heads of state such as Theresa May, said the pair had helped cause “problems” and create a “mess” that would outlast their political careers.

He also hinted at his hope that the resignations will lead to a complete re-think of Brexit.

“When it comes to Brexit, politicians come and go but the problems they have created for the people remain,” the Polish politician told journalists in Brussels.

David Davis and Boris Johnson together in Downing Street (Getty)

“The mess caused by Brexit is the biggest problem in the history of EU-UK relations and it is still very far from being solved – with or without Mr Davis.

European Council president Donald Tusk with Theresa May in Downing Street (Getty)

“Unfortunately the idea of Brexit hasn’t left together with David Davis.”

When asked about Johnson’s resignation as Foreign Secretary, Tusk added: “I can just repeat what I said about David Davis one minute ago.”

Speaking at the same press conference, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker quipped: “This clearly proves that at Chequers there was unity in the cabinet.”

He repeated the comments in a tweet that also alluded to the possibility of the referendum result being overturned.


Tusk’s response to the walkout of Brexiteers from May’s cabinet was the most fierce yet from Brussels.

EU leaders are concerned about the prospect of May being toppled, but were unshaken by Davis’ resignation as Brexit Secretary.

Davis had only visited Brussels twice this year and spent just four hours in talks with his EU counterpart Michel Barnier.

Asked whether the resignation was a problem, the European commission chief spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said bluntly: “Not for us.”

He added later: “I think it matters a lot for the UK side because this is the person who would be the counterpart to our chief negotiator.

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“What matters for us is the negotiating framework the 27-member states have set for us.”

Other said Davis’ resignation would not badly interrupt talks because they have largely been led by Olly Robbins, the prime minister’s Brexit advisor.

Green MEP Philippe Lamberts, who sits on the European Parliament’s Brexit steering group, told Yahoo: “The guy [Davis] never seemed to be in charge very honest.

“He had a sort of detached attitude to the whole process to which he was nominally in charge. It was not really a secret that Olly Robbins was in charge and not him.”

The next round of Brexit talks are scheduled to start next Monday.

The Commission’s spokesperson indicated that a more active role from Davis’ replacement – Dominic Raab – would help reach a deal before the October deadline.

David Davis and Michel Barnier at a joint press conference in March (Getty)

“Experience shows that commitment at political level facilitates the process,” said Schinas.

Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker spoke to Theresa May by phone on Sunday afternoon, during which they discussed the Brexit plan that triggered Davis’ exit.

Officially, the EU is reserving its judgement until it sees the government’s white paper on Thursday.

But Barnier has already warned that the EU’s single market is “not only a big supermarket” – a sign that May’s plan to maintain a single market for goods only would be rejected.

German MEP, Gabriele Zimmer, who represents the Left group on the European Parliament’s Brexit steering group, said: “I have my doubts about May’s proposals from last week.

“The UK cannot continue to cherry pick as they have just tried with the European single market for goods.”

MORE: ‘Single market is not a supermarket,’ says Barnier in blow to May’s Brexit plan