Britain will not be bullied by the EU, the man in charge of leaving has warned
Brexit Secretary David Davis yesterday recalled the Blitz spirit as he sent a shot across the bows of Brussels chiefs set on taking revenge for Brexit.
Mr Davis said: “Our civil service can cope with world war two, they can easily cope with this.”
And in a pointed attack on voices in Brussels calling for Britain to be punished, he said: “We're not going to take that.”
His words followed the tough line set by Theresa May in her Lancaster House speech when she told Europe that Britain will walk away from the negotiating table rather than accept a bad deal.
Mr Davis: 'Our civil service can cope with world war two, they can easily cope with this'
Our civil service can cope with world war two, they can easily cope with this
Mr Davis also dismissed former Belgian Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator who had claimed that the UK “cannot cherry pick” in response to Theresa May’s acclaimed speech earlier this week.
He said: "A more important person than Mr Verhofstadt is Donald Tusk, the head of the [European] Council, and he said this is realistic.
"That was the world that he used – 'realistic'.
"It's quite interesting, it was entirely possible, when you open a negotiation you get a sort of reaction back to push you back a bit.
Mr Nuttall intends to ensure that ministers live up to their tough words
"We didn't get that, we got a serious and reflective look at it from Brussels and I think we're going to see a really good engagement.
"Guy is one player of several."
Ukip leader Paul Nuttall last night made it clear that he intends to ensure that ministers live up to their tough words when they start negotiations.
He said: “I say to the EU negotiators, now is not the time for empty threats.
“Britain is not bluffing, Britain will not be bullied. Britain is not some sort of small nation on the peripheries of Europe.
“We are the United Kingdom. The fifth largest economy on the planet. We have links all over the globe: to the Anglosphere, the Commonwealth, the emerging markets of the Far East.”
The comments came as a row broke out over remarks made by Boris Johnson who warned the EU against trying to inflict “punishment beatings” on Britain in the style of a “World War Two prisoner of war escape film”.
The Foreign Secretary was accused of making "wild and inappropriate remarks" after suggesting French President Francois Hollande was threatening "punishment beatings" while he was on a visit to India.
He said: "If Monsieur Hollande wants to administer punishment beatings to anyone who chooses to escape, rather in the manner of some World War Two movie, then I don't think that's the way forward.
"It's not in the interests of our friends or our partners."
But Downing Street officials backed Mr Johnson's right to use "theatrical language" when talking about the forthcoming Brexit negotiations and denied suggestions he was likening the French president to a Nazi guard at a PoW camp.
Boris Johnson spoke out yesterday amid a war of words
Labour and the Lib Dems attempted to whip a row about Mr Johnson's words yesterday.
A senior Labour spokesman said: "We are all aware that the Foreign Secretary has a habit of making wild and inappropriate comments.
"Talking about World War Two in that context is another one of those and that is not going to be something that is going to improve the climate for this negotiation."
Asked whether Mr Johnson should apologise, the Labour spokesman said: "That's a matter for the Foreign Secretary, but I don't think threats or wild comparisons and analogies are going to help the negotiations."
Labour MP Wes Streeting, a supporter of the Open Britain campaign, said: "It seems the Foreign Secretary has been leafing through his well-thumbed copy of How To Lose Friends And Alienate People."
And Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, who is leading a drive to sabotage Brexit, said: "This is an utterly crass and clueless remark from the man who is supposed to be our chief diplomat."
Theresa May's 12 point Brexit plan
Mon, January 16, 2017
It's finally here!
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Continued cooperation with the EU to tackle terrorism and international crime.
In Strasbourg Mr Verhofstadt branded the comments "abhorrent".
The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman dismissed the complaints as a "hyped-up media report".
"He was making a point," she said of the Foreign Secretary. "He was in no way suggesting that anyone was a Nazi."
However, Mr Johnson’s Vote Leave ally, former Justice Secretary Michael Gove defended him in a Tweet: “People "offended" by The Foreign Secretary's comments today are humourless, deliberately obtuse, snowflakes-it's a witty metaphor #getalife”.
Meanwhile, in a separate development, Mr Davis warned that freedom from Brussels may not be achieved until 2021 because of transitional arrangements.
The Brexit Secretary said he is "very determined' to agree a divorce deal with Brussels and a new trading relationship within the two-year negotiating process set out by Article 50 of the EU treaties.
Michael Gove blasts people offended by Mr Johnson's remarks as 'humourless'
He insisted Britain is not "supplicant" to any EU insistence that the timetable should be longer and would be seeking to conclude a deal in two years before the implementation phase begins.
He went on: "At the end of two years, we will have our deals, what may take a little longer is implementation.
"I don't know, whether it's customs arrangements or it's a time for companies to accommodate things, or whether it's border arrangements, or some other elements.
"And we've said we accept that there may be an implementation phase thereafter.
"It won't be a long time a year or two."
Mr Davis was also confident that the deal would be good enough to get the approval of parliament and not get voted down leaving Britain with no agreement.
"I intend to make this a success," he said.