STEVE Barclay has warned Michel Barnier he will be held responsible for No Deal – as political talks on revamping the backstop resume today.
The Brexit Secretary said the Commission will cop the blame for “crystallising” a crash out if it sticks to its “rigid” approach.
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay says the Irish border fix is unacceptable and has to go[/caption]
Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief Negotiator, has been criticised for his ‘rigid’ approach[/caption]
Speaking in Madrid after meetings with Spanish officials, he said the Irish border fix is unacceptable for four reasons and “has to go”.
And he warned eurocrats are imperilling future UK-EU relations “because of a lack of flexibility, creativity and indeed pragmatism”.
Mr Barclay stormed: “Great political leaders have always respected the need to take risk.
“A refusal by the Commission to accept any risk would be a failure of statecraft. Leadership requires more than remaining within a safety net.”
He added: “We risk being trapped in a zero sum game, which will lead to zero outcomes, which I do not want.
“The EU risks continuing to insist on a test that the UK cannot meet and that the UK Parliament has rejected three times.
“What we need now is a genuine negotiation with creative and flexible solutions from both sides.
“A rigid approach now – at this point – is no way to progress a deal. The responsibility sits with both sides to find a solution.”
Mr Barclay also said the backstop is “inconsistent” with the Good Friday Agreement because it doesn’t have the “consent of both communities”.
Responding to the remarks, an EU Commission spokeswoman said Brussels would not be drawn into a “blame game” with Britain.
She said: “Our role is to be constructive, to move forward the negotiations and to make progress so as to allow reaching the joint aim of having a deal.”
Eurocrats also batted away Mr Barclay’s suggestion that they are not ready for No Deal, insisting EU states are “fully prepared”.
Both the Commission and No 10 confirmed yesterday that Britain has tabled written proposals on replacing the backstop for the first time.
The UK side yesterday put forward a series of informal discussion papers containing over its ideas to revamp the border fix.
The dossier covers parts of Britain’s aim for a “three tier” replacement to the backstop which would involve some checks on the island of Ireland.
It includes agreeing an all-island agri-food zone, under which Northern Ireland continues to follow EU rules on farming and food standards.
This would be coupled by replacing alignment in other areas with alternative arrangements and agreeing a Stormont Lock for Northern Irish consent.
Under the plan the whole of the UK would leave the EU’s customs union and single market.
Caroline Flint was invited to Brussels by the EU chief negotiator so they could update him on parliament[/caption]
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar says there is ‘a lot of energy and a lot of positivity’ surrounding talks[/caption]
Teams of officials from Brussels and Britain met yesterday and will get together again today to discuss the technical details of the proposal.
The revelation came as two Labour MPs leading a cross-party group for a deal told Mr Barnier up to 30 of their colleagues are ready to rebel against Jeremy Corbyn.
Stephen Kinnock and Caroline Flint were invited to Brussels by the EU chief negotiator so he could grill them on the latest parliamentary arithmetic.
Some EU officials have expressed regret that they have focussed too much attention on hardline Remainers rather than moderates.
Ms Flint said he had probed them on what “pressure” they could bring to bear on the two main parties and discussions surrounding the Benn bill.
She insisted: “There’s still a majority in parliament, cross-party, who would like to get a deal through.
“I think we better reflect the public. People want us to try and find a way through this.”
Mr Kinnock said the Frenchman told them he was “not hung up on the language and the way in which absolute assurances are given” the backstop won’t be permanent.
He said of his grouping: “Different parts of the coalition are looking for different things but we really are now at the last roll of the dice.
“We made the point that the more the debate has radicalised and polarised, the closer you get to No Deal.
“Everybody that’s tried to reverse Brexit, to not accept anything that doesn’t pass various purity tests, has played directly into the hands of the No Dealers.”
Ireland’s PM Leo Varadkar yesterday said the “rhetoric and mood music” surrounding the talks has improved and there’s “a lot of energy and a lot of positivity”.
But he warned: “The difficulty is that when it comes to the substance of the issue that needs to be resolved, the gaps are still very wide.”
His deputy Simon Coveney, who met MPs from parliament’s Brexit committee in Dublin yesterday, also warned the two sides are a long way apart.
He said: “There is a significant gap between what the British Government has been asking about in their approach, and what the EU is able to accept.”
Mr Coveney added that France and Finland agreeing a September 30 deadline for new UK plans showed “the growing frustration and concern within the EU”.
Asked about the ultimatum, the Commission said that “every day counts” and that “the sooner we make progress the better”.
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A French official said: “If we don’t get the proposals before the end of September, we will not have enough time to discuss them before the summit in October.”
Yesterday a report by the OECD warned Ireland is set to be the worst hit EU country if there’s No Deal – but Britain would suffer even more.
The Paris-based think tank said the country’s economic growth would be cut by 1.5 per cent next year and in 2021, compared with a 2% hit for the UK.
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