Boris Johnson has a ‘landing zone’ to bring in a Brexit deal insists Cabinet minister Steve Barclay as he suggests Brussels is ready to be ‘creative and flexible’ to avoid a No Deal departure next month
- He played up the chances of getting an agreement with the EU before Halloween
- He also revealed he will meet EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier tomorrow
- Added: ‘We can see a landing zone … but there is significant work still to do’
A Brexit deal with Brussels is possible and Boris Johnson has a ‘landing zone’ to bring it in on, a top minister insisted today.
Brexit minister Steve Barclay played up the chances of getting an agreement with the EU after ministers last week seemed to block the Government’s path to a No Deal departure.
He also revealed he will meet EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier tomorrow, while the Prime Minister is holding talks with outgoing European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Luxembourg.
Speaking on Sky’s Ridge on Sunday Mr Barclay said: ‘We can see a landing zone in terms of a future deal but there is significant work still to do so the talks tomorrow will be an important step forward,’
But he reiterated that any deal was still reliant on the Irish border backstop being removed, adding: ‘We’ve been very clear with the EU about that, Parliament has rejected it three times.
‘It would involve people in Northern Ireland taking laws over which they have had no vote and therefore the backstop has to go from the Withdrawal Agreement and indeed EU leaders themselves have said they are open to being creative and flexible in terms of future arrangement.
Speaking on Sky’s Ridge on Sunday Mr Barclay said: ‘We can see a landing zone in terms of a future deal but there is significant work still to do so the talks tomorrow will be an important step forward’
‘Then it is also the political declaration: we have addressed one of the key questions from the EU which is what sort of future relationship is the UK seeking.
‘We are very clear we want a best in class free trade agreement, certain issues then flow in terms of changes to the political declaration as a result of that.
So we have been having those technical discussions, discussing also with Northern Ireland leaders which the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and others have been doing so a huge amount has been happening behind the scenes.
‘We are very clear what it is we need in order to get a deal through Parliament and those are the discussions that we’ve been having.’
However there remain many obstacles seemingly in the way of a deal.
On Friday Mr Johnson’s allies in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) dismissed claims it is ready to accept a watered down backstop to get a Brexit deal.
What happens next in the Brexit crisis?
Here is how the coming weeks could pan out:
September 17: Supreme Court hears case on whether prorogation of Parliament was illegal.
September 21-25: Labour conference in Brighton
September 29-October 2: Tory conference takes place in Manchester, with Mr Johnson giving his first keynote speech as leader on the final day. This will be a crucial waypointer on how Brexit talks are going.
October 14: Unless it has already been recalled following the court battle, Parliament is due to return with the Queen’s Speech – the day before Mr Johnson had hoped to hold a snap election.
October 17-18: A crunch EU summit in Brussels, where Mr Johnson has vowed he will try to get a Brexit deal despite Remainers ‘wrecking’ his negotiating position.
October 19: If there is no Brexit deal by this date Remainer legislation obliges the PM to beg the EU for an extension to avoid No Deal.
October 21: Decisive votes on the Queen’s Speech, which could pave the way for a confidence vote.
October 31: The current deadline for the UK to leave the EU.
November/December: An election looks inevitable, but Labour is hinting it might push the date back towards Christmas to humiliate the PM.
Rumours had been swirling that Boris Johnson is preparing a new version of the ‘insurance policy’ for the Irish border.
Aides have been examining proposals for arrangements that would apply only to Northern Ireland, rather than aligning the whole UK with EU market rules.
However, DUP leader Arlene Foster moved to quash the speculation, saying the ‘UK must leave as one nation’.
‘We are keen to see a sensible deal but not one that divides the internal market of the UK,’ she said, after previously meeting Mr Johnson in Downing Street.
Mr Johnson has previously stated that he was seeking a ‘backstop-ectomy’, to remove the controversial provision from the Withdrawal Agreement altogether.
However, the task for the PM was made tougher after Parliament passed a law effectively banning No Deal at the end of October, and refused his call to trigger an early general election.
The latest blueprint being floated would not be the same as the previous Northern Ireland-only backstop floated by Brussels, which was dismissed by Theresa May as something no British PM could accept.
That would have involved the province staying within the EU’s tax jurisdiction.
Instead, the idea is thought to be a much looser alignment of agricultural and food regulations with Ireland.
Mr Johnson insisted he is ‘very hopeful’ of a Brexit deal last week, saying the ‘landing space’ for an agreement was becoming clear.
However, the EU’s chief negotiator swiped that he is still waiting for ‘concrete, legally operational’ ideas from the UK.
And one of his advisers warned there was ‘no reason for optimism’.
Downing Street sources played down the tough line from the EU side, branding it a ‘negotiating tactic’.
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