The European Union needs to show more flexibility in its approach to Brexit negotiations, Britain’s Brexit minister has said.
Speaking to business leaders in Spain, Brexit Secretary Stephen said: “A rigid approach now at this point is no way to progress a deal and the responsibility sits with both sides to find a solution.
“We are committed to carving out a landing zone and we stand ready to share relevant texts. But it must be in the spirit of negotiation with flexibility and with a negotiating partner that itself is willing to compromise.”
Mr Barclay will meet the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, tomorrow.
He has suggested that the final details for an alternative to the Irish backstop may not need to be resolved untl the end of 2020.
Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne, following talks in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron, said Britain should outline its Brexit plans to the EU by the end of September.
Mr Rinne told reporters that he and Mr Macron “agreed that it is now time for Boris Johnson to produce his own proposals in writing – if they exist”.
“If no proposals are received by the end of September, then it’s over.”
Mr Barclay said Prime Minister Boris Johnson had shown he was willing to be “creative and flexible” by considering an all-Ireland approach to plant and animal checks and suggested that it was now for the European Commission to shift its stance.
Mr Barclay also suggested that the EU’s call for a legally operational alternative to the backstop to be ready on Brexit day was setting the bar too high.
“The alternative to the backstop is not necessary until the end of the implementation period which is December 2020,” he said.
“Indeed this will be shaped by the future relationship which is still to be determined.
“In short, why risk crystallising an undesirable result this November when both sides can work together until December 2020.”
He warned: “The EU risks continuing to insist on a test that the UK cannot meet and that the UK Parliament has rejected three times.”
Mr Barclay said failing to leave the European Union on 31 October was “not an option for this government” but was challenged over how Mr Johnson’s administration would comply with the law aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit.
The Brexit Secretary said “of course we will abide by the law” but he added “we will look at it closely and test exactly where we are” – the latest sign that the government is examining ways around its measures.
Mr Barclay said he was “surprised” that the EU claimed it was prepared for a no-deal Brexit – pointing to the potential impact on food and medicine supplies to Ireland if there are tailbacks at Calais.
“Two-thirds of Irish medicines come through Great Britain. 40% of its exports go through Dover,” he said.
“Its supermarkets are supplied from distribution centres in the Midlands yet this is presented as solely a UK challenge.
“It’s a mutual challenge because if indeed there were two-and-a-days of delays at Calais then the impact of that would not solely be felt within the UK, it would be felt in Ireland and indeed in businesses here in Spain.”