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Michael Gove told Andrew Marr this morning that the EU had been backing down from their Brexit demands in recent weeks. Speaking to the BBC, the senior cabinet minister said that EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier had even “retreated” from previous red lines. Mr Gove voiced “optimism” that a deal between the two sides can be struck before the end of the year.
Andrew Marr said: “We have heard from people around Michel Barnier that there are moves on the EU side of the negotiation.
“Are you confident, as the Prime Minister said, that we will get a trade deal this month?”
Mr Gove responded: “I don’t know about this month but it is the case that progress is being made.
“There are still divisions between ourselves and the EU.”
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He continued: “But take a case in point. Until recently, the EU was saying that there had to be a permanent presence in Northern Ireland.
“They said they needed to have an agency there to supervise it. They have now retreated on that.
“We persuaded them that it wasn’t necessary. So yes, there is movement.
“And, to be fair to Michel Barnier and his team, they recognise the strength of the case that our negotiators are putting forward.
“There are still differences but there are also hopeful signs.
“I wouldn’t want to be over-enthusiastic but I am optimistic.”
He made the remarks as he announced a new £705m funding package to help manage Britain’s borders as the UK prepares to leave the EU customs union at the end of the year.
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The plans from Mr Gove include new border control posts and 500 extra Border Force staff.
He said the move would help the UK “seize the opportunities” post-Brexit.
This comes amid reports that Mr Barnier has softened the EU’s stances on several deadlocked areas, including the role of the European Court of Justice and fisheries.
The EU’s chief negotiator is “preparing the ground” to go beyond his hardline mandate, according to insiders.
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