Brexit minister hints United Kingdom could soften stances in European Union talks

Elias Hubbard
October 7, 2019

Britain on Sunday urged the EU to intensify talks over London's latest Brexit proposals, as European leaders warned it must revise its plans within days in order to conclude a deal this month.

Barclay reiterated that the ideas Johnson has formally submitted to Brussels were "a broad landing zone" and "intense negotiations" were now necessary.

Mr Barclay appeared to confirm that the Government would send a letter to the European Union requesting a Brexit delay if a deal has not been agreed by October 19 - after Government lawyers told Scotland's highest civil court that Mr Johnson accepted the commitment.

European diplomats say London needs to offer a revised, viable way forward before the end of next week, so that any haggling and legalistic work is done before a crucial EU summit on October 17-18.

Dutch Premier Mark Rutte tweeted he had told Johnson "important questions remain about the British proposals" and "there is a lot of work to be done ahead" of the summit.

Meanwhile the EU's top negotiator Michel Barnier told an event Saturday organised by French newspaper Le Monde that while an agreement was still possible it "will be very hard to reach".

"The key issue is the principle of consent, that's why the backstop was rejected three times, that was the concern in terms of both sides in Northern Ireland not approving of the backstop", Stephen Barclay told the BBC's Andrew Marr on Sunday.

It is meant to guarantee that no border springs up between the British territory and European Union member Ireland - which would threaten the hard-won Good Friday peace accord - while also maintaining the integrity of the EU's single market.

In an article co-written with former Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader Roderick Crawford that appeared Saturday in the "Conservative Home", Trimble said that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to preserve post-Brexit Northern Ireland is superior to the so-called "Irish Backstop" plan put forward by the EU.

His deputy, Simon Coveney, said giving the Northern Ireland Assembly a vote on single market alignment would in effect give a veto to any one party.

But Northern Ireland alone would be subjected to separate regulations for goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

"But they should be under no illusions or misapprehensions", he said.

He also raised concerns about the proposed customs arrangements that would require checks and controls even if, as proposed, they do not take place at or near the border. "On Oct. 31 we are going to get Brexit done".

A United Kingdom government document quoted in a Scottish court Friday indicated Johnson intends to comply with a law requiring him to ask for a delay if there's no deal in place by October 19.

The plans delivered to Brussels last week set out a two-border plan to replace the "backstop" provision in Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement.

Barclay, who will travel to Amsterdam later Sunday for Brexit talks, hinted that Britain could be willing to consider alternative ways of meeting its aims.

However, Labour's Lisa Nandy - who represents Leave-backing Wigan - said that while she could support a deal, the "problem is at the moment, we don't have a deal".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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