Brexit: EU and UK still have 'significant issues to resolve'

The Prime Minister's negotiators resumed talks on Wednesday morning after wrapping up their last session in the early hours as they strive to get an agreement ready for Thursday's meeting of EU leaders.
The Prime Minister's negotiators resumed talks on Wednesday morning after wrapping up their last session in the early hours as they strive to get an agreement ready for Thursday's meeting of EU leaders.
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Boris Johnson will write a letter to Brussels asking for a delay if no deal is approved by Saturday, the Brexit Secretary has said on the final day of negotiations before the key summit.

The Prime Minister's negotiators resumed talks on Wednesday morning after wrapping up their last session in the early hours as they strive to get an agreement ready for Thursday's meeting of EU leaders.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.  Picture: PA

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Picture: PA

If Mr Johnson fails to get a deal by the weekend, he will face an almighty clash with MPs who will demand he complies with the Benn Act and ask for an extension, something he has repeatedly ruled out doing.

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Stephen Barclay was questioned by the anti-no-deal legislation's namesake, Labour's Hilary Benn, when appearing at the Exiting the European Union Committee of MPs.

The Brexit Secretary reiterated that the PM would write to Brussels asking for an Article 50 extension, as previously revealed in documents submitted during a Scottish court challenge.

Respect of the law

He said: "I can confirm, as the Prime Minister has repeatedly set out, that firstly the Government will comply with the law, and secondly it will comply with undertakings given to the court in respect of the law."

Mr Barclay confirmed that the Government "will abide by" what is set out in that letter, following fears the PM could try and scupper an extension with a second contradictory letter or request to a member state to block an extension.

The Cabinet minister reiterated the Government's commitment to leave the EU on the current October 31 deadline, despite the act demanding a delay to the end of January if MPs to do not approve a deal by Saturday.

EU commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said there remains "a number of significant issues to resolve" in the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

He told an EU briefing: "The commission's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, debriefed the college of commissioners on the state of play of talks with the United Kingdom.

"Technical level discussions with the United Kingdom continued late into the night last night and are ongoing as we speak now.

"Talks have been constructive but there still remains a number of significant issues to resolve."

Jeremy Corbyn said he is "deeply concerned" about the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

Mr Corbyn said: "I don't know what the deal is going to be yet.

"What I heard from the talks which are going on leads me to be deeply concerned that, in reality, there's going to be a border in the Irish sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and that the loss of the regulatory power of the European Union on consumer rights, on workers' rights and so on, will lead to a trade deal with the United States and a mega-loss of rights.

"This is not a deal that we can support."

Scottish courts

Mr Barclay was asked if he agreed with the "highest court in Scotland" that if the Prime Minister or the Government went back on the assurances given it would be "destructive of one of the core principles of constitutional propriety and of the mutual trust that is the bedrock of the relationship between the court and the Crown".

Mr Barclay replied: "I would expect Government to stand by undertakings it's given by the court, and the Prime Minister's been very clear at all stages that we will abide by the law."

He added: "I agree that we will always abide by the law, always abide by the ministerial code, and by undertakings that have been given to the court."

Mr Barclay confirmed that the Government "will abide by" what is set out in that letter, following fears the PM could try and scupper an extension with a second contradictory letter or request to a member state to block an extension.

The Cabinet minister reiterated the Government's commitment to leave the EU on the current October 31 deadline, despite the act demanding a delay to the end of January if MPs to do not approve a deal by Saturday.