Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 September 2019

UK Brexit chief wants to renegotiate withdrawal deal from EU

Stephen Barclay insisted it was in both sides' interest to avoid a no-deal Brexit

 Stephen Barclay is supporting Boris Johnson in the Conservative leadership race. AFP
 Stephen Barclay is supporting Boris Johnson in the Conservative leadership race. AFP

A senior UK politician on Monday said the withdrawal agreement with the EU must be renegotiated, despite Brussels insisting it will not begin talks for a new deal.

Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay, who will meet EU negotiator Michel Barnier on Tuesday evening, said there was a “continued dialogue” with the bloc.

Mr Barclay said avoiding a no-deal Brexit was in both sides' interest.

“I think the impact of no deal is asymmetric across Europe," he said. " For example, it tends to get little focus in the UK, but the impact of no deal on Ireland according to our analysis is greater than the impact on the UK."

Mr Barclay said changes to the EU's leadership after parliamentary elections would change “the dynamic”.

But he said key figures in Brussels would still continue in their roles for the crucial coming months and the effect would be minimal.

Mr Barclay refused to criticise departing Prime Minister Theresa May, whose Brexit withdrawal agreement was overwhelmingly rejected three times by Parliament.

He said Brexit was always going to be a major challenge, regardless of who was in charge.

The UK is set to leave the EU on October 31 after agreeing to two extensions earlier in the year.

Mr Barclay is backing former foreign secretary Boris Johnson to become the new prime minister.

Mr Johnson has said the UK must leave on October 31 whatever happens, although his preference was a managed withdrawal.

“We do need to look at it again if we are going to get a withdrawal agreement through Parliament and I think it’s in both sides' interest to avoid no deal," Mr Barclay said.

"And within that, we clearly will need to have ongoing discussions with the new prime minister as to how we address that."

He said there were more than 300 project teams working on preparations for a no deal.

“We don’t want to have a no-deal outcome but it is important that we do everything we can to prepare for that,” Mr Barclay said.

He talked down any idea of a “divisive, not decisive” second referendum on the UK leaving the EU, and said any further Brexit extensions were not desirable for anyone.

Updated: July 10, 2019 07:38 PM

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