The government’s negotiations with the EU appear to be going a little better than their talks with Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham. While there is yet to an agreement on moving Greater Manchester into Tier 3, there has been a development on Brexit. On Friday, the Prime Minister used a video clip to warn the country to prepare for no deal. He complained that EU intransigence meant that unless there was a shift from Brussels, there was little point continuing the trade talks. Michel Barnier’s offer to come to the UK this week was declined and Michael Gove toured the television studios on Sunday insisting the UK is willing to go it alone if necessary.
Now Barnier has moved – if not the whole way. The EU’s chief negotiator has offered an olive branch – telling the UK’s chief negotiator Sir David Frost that he is now able to ‘intensify’ talks and discuss legal texts. This comes after frustration on the UK side that at the EU summit last week EU leaders dropped the pledge to intensify talks. Officials have also been reluctant to look at legal language changes needed to agree a deal.
Although this is an important shift, the UK government verdict is that it still does not go far enough. A No. 10 spokesman has praised the ‘constructive’ discussion but says a ‘fundamental change of approach from the EU’ is still missing. Downing Street are looking for ‘an EU approach consistent with trying to find an agreement between sovereign equals and with acceptance that movement needs to come from the EU side as well as the UK’. The two sides have agreed to stay in touch. While there are currently no official negotiations, there is optimism on the UK side that there is still the potential for a deal to be reached.
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