David Davis has said the deal struck by Theresa May to open up trade talks is not binding but rather a “statement of intent”.
The Brexit Secretary said it was not “legally enforceable” and if the UK failed to strike a trade deal then it could still refuse to pay its divorce bill - believed to be between £35bn and £39bn, but which ex-Brexit minister David Jones said this morning could climb as high as £100bn.
Speaking on the BBC Andrew Marr Show, Davis said: “Number one, no deal means we won’t be paying the money.”
He added of the deal struck this week between the EU Commission and May: “This was a statement of intent more than anything else. It was a statement of intent rather than a legally enforceable thing.”
He denied the words “full alignment”, used in the deal signed by Theresa May on Friday, would lead to the UK being forced to accept EU regulations.
Davis also drew ire after dodging a question over whether he misled Parliament over the Brexit impact assessments.
“Using the word ‘impact’ doesn’t make it an impact assessment,” he told Marr.
Previously, he had proudly claimed assessments of the impact of Brexit would examine in “excruciating detail” how leaving the EU would affect various parts of the economy.
But last week he admitted to the Brexit Select Committee that the impact assessment did not actually exist and were instead “sectoral analyses”.
He blamed his “imprecise language”.
He told Marr: “Yes, I used the word impact. Let me be clear. Impact assessment has got a particular meaning, almost in law, certainly in the civil service.”
Davis also underlined the UK was committed to keeping a “frictionless and invisible” Irish border - and the Government would “find a way” to do this even if there was a “no deal” Brexit.
But he went on to point out the chances of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal had “dropped dramatically” following Friday’s joint EU-UK statement in Brussels.
He described the kind of trade deal he wanted with the EU, describing it as “Canada plus plus plus”.
Canada’s deal with the EU, signed last year, removes the vast majority of customs duties on EU exports to Canada and Canadian exports to the EU.
But Mr Davis said it did not include trade in services, something he wanted to see in the UK’s “bespoke” deal with the EU.
Chancellor Philip Hammond has previously suggested the Brexit divorce bill will be paid even if no EU trade deal is struck.