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EU 'must alter negotiation stance' says minister

By Julian Shea in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-08-05 22:30

Warning that no-deal Brexit "coming down the tracks"


Britain's Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay says the European Union must soften its stance on negotiations over the United Kingdom's proposed departure from the bloc at the end of October or a no-deal Brexit is "coming down the tracks".

Since Boris Johnson succeeded Theresa May as the leader of the Conservative Party and Britain's prime minister last month, he has insisted that the country will leave the EU in October, whether or not alternative arrangements can be made in time for the treaties and agreements Britain is currently signed up to as a member of the EU.

This so-called no-deal Brexit is widely predicted to cause chaos and potential economic and social turmoil, and the resultant continued uncertainty has seen the pound tumble in value.

In 2018, May reached a withdrawal agreement with the leaders of the other 27 EU member states, but it was repeatedly rejected by Parliament, leading to two postponements of Britain's departure date, and eventually May's resignation.

The EU insists that agreement is the only one it is willing to offer, but writing in the Mail on Sunday newspaper, Barclay said changes to the European Parliament following the European elections in May–with new members elected in 61 percent of seats - meant "political realities" had changed and a "fundamental shift" had taken place, requiring a new approach.

Barclay went on to say that the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier had told him he is bound by the instructions given to him by the European Commission and leaders of member states, but Barclay says this makes no-deal more likely.

"Mr Barnier needs to urge EU leaders to consider this if they too want an agreement, to enable him to negotiate in a way that finds common ground with the UK. Otherwise, no deal is coming down the tracks," he said.

Barnier has previously called Johnson's attitude "rather combative", and the new government has drawn criticism for its use of terminology such as "war cabinet" when describing its preparations for upcoming Brexit planning, which is marked contrast to the talk of "a better, friendlier relationship with the EU", on the official website of the 2016 referendum Vote Leave group, of which Johnson was a part.

The issue of the post-Brexit border between Northern Ireland, part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state, also continues to be a major sticking point.

There is currently no hard border between the two, and the introduction of any such barriers, administrative or physical, would have a huge impact on life in the region as well as reviving memories of three decades of civil conflict known as the Troubles, which resulted in over three thousand deaths.

Johnson insists the so-called backstop arrangement, to ensure there is no hard border, should be removed from the withdrawal agreement as it would effectively mean part of the UK being subject to EU law indefinitely, but Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar says it is necessary"as a consequence of decisions taken in the UK".

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