Bri­tain and EU ‘clos­ing in’ on with­drawal deal

Raab con­fi­dent af­ter ne­go­ti­a­tions – but Barnier less up­beat

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY GAVIN COR­DON

Bri­tain and the EU are “clos­ing in” on an agree­ment on the terms of the UK’s with­drawal and their fu­ture re­la­tions, Brexit Sec­re­tary Do­minic Rabb has said.

Mr Raab had an “ex­tended” phone call yes­ter­day with the EU’s chief ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier to re­view progress in the Brexit talks.

He said while there were still is­sues that needed to be re­solved, dis­cus­sions were tak­ing place in the “right spirit” and they would have fur­ther talks af­ter EU lead­ers meet next week for an in­for­mal sum­mit in Salzburg.

“W h i l e t h e r e re­main some sub­stan­tive dif­fer­ences we need to re­solve, it is clear our teams are clos­ing in on work­able so­lu­tions to the out­stand­ing is­sues in the with­drawal agree­ment and are hav­ing pro­duc­tive dis­cus­sions in the right spirit on the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship,” Mr Raab said.

“We re­it­er­ated our will­ing­ness to de­vote the nec­es­sary time and en­ergy to bring these ne­go­ti­a­tions to a suc­cess­ful con­clu­sion.”

Mr Barnier was more cau­tious, say­ing while they had a “use­ful di­a­logue”, there were still “sub­stan­tive dif­fer­ences”, in­clud­ing over the Ir­ish bor­der and pro­tec­tions for re­gional spe­cial­ity food prod­ucts known as “ge­o­graph­i­cal in­di­ca­tions”.

He said they were also work­ing to find “com­mon ground” on the re­la­tions af­ter Bri­tain has left.

Their com­ments came af­ter Mr Raab warned on Thurs­day that Bri­tain could with­hold some of the £39 bil­lion “di­vorce bill” agreed in De­cem­ber if there was no over­all agree­ment.

Ear­lier, Mr Barnier had de­liv­ered an up­beat as­sess­ment sug­gest­ing a deal could be tied up within six to eight weeks, in time for agree­ment at a spe­cial lead­ers’ sum­mit in Novem­ber.

The po­ten­tial con­se­quences of a nodeal Brexit were spelled out by Bank of Eng­land gover­nor Mark Car­ney at a spe­cial meet­ing of the Cab­i­net when he warned min­is­ters of a 35% crash in house prices over three years in a worst case sce­nario.

Speak­ing yes­ter­day in Dublin, Mr Car­ney said the Bank had used its “stress test” to en­sure UK banks could con­tinue to func­tion in the event of a “dis­or­derly” Brexit.

“The Bank of Eng­land is well-pre­pared for what­ever path the econ­omy takes, in­clud­ing a wide range of po­ten­tial Brexit out­comes,” he said.

“Our job, af­ter all, is not to hope for the best but to plan for the worst.”

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