The Brexit secretary shocked observers by making the most fleeting of visits to the Belgian capital this morning, posing for a few staged photo opportunities and answering no questions.
Mr Davis arrived at the EU Commission’s headquarters at around 9.15am and immediately held a joint press conference with Mr Barnier, at which the pair read pre-prepared statements.
They then left the podiums without answering any questions from the gathered media, with the Frenchman saying the pair needed to work to which the Brexit secretary replied: “Work, yes that’s right – work.”
The pair were then snapped with their advisers inside Mr Barnier’s office, in a photo which raised eyebrows due to the lack of notes brought into the meeting by British officials.
Whilst the EU negotiators were seen sitting behind piles of stacked up documents the UK side of the table was completely bare save for a single small black notebook.
Commentators observed that the candid photo could demonstrate the level of preparedness of the two sides, but it now appears that very little if any actual negotiation between the two men took place today.
According to reports Mr Davis had already left the Berlaymont building to return to Britain less than two hours after arriving, and will not be back in Brussels until Thursday.
Asked what he thought of such a “fleeting” visit, the EU Commission’s chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas replied: “I saw David Davis coming into the building I haven’t followed his exact location in the building or around the building so I will not offer an occasion on something that I’m not aware of.”
Today’s visit to Brussels by the Brexit secretary was deliberately more lowkey than the opening day of talks last month, when the pair exchanged gifts and held a lengthy press conference with the world’s media.
This morning there were no presents on display and media access was tightly managed, with both men unwilling to give away much about what specific issues they would be focussing on and how the talks are going.
British officials insisted that the brevity of the meeting between Mr Davis and Mr Barnier did not indicate that it had gone badly and that there was no “walk out or drama” from the British side.
Instead, they said it had always been the plan that the Brexit secretary would arrive in Brussels to urge officials to get on with the technical heavy lifting of the negotiations and then leave shortly after.
Appearing in front of journalists together this morning the two men did, however, strike different tones about the upcoming talks with Mr Davis noticeably trying to inject some positive energy into proceedings.
Mr Barnier delivered a largely technocratic address, describing the process of the talks and saying: “We need to examine and compare our respective positions in order to make good progress.”
But the Brexit secretary, in contrast, struck a more idealistic and upbeat tone, saying it was “good to be back in Brussels” and talking up the “similarities” between the two sides.
He told reporters: “We made a good start last month but we’re now getting into the substance of the matter. It’s time to get down to work and make this a successful negotiation.”