Monday 19 August 2019

Government dismisses UK plan to give Barnier new mandate for Brexit talks

Proposal to reopen withdrawal deal 'nonsense' and 'unrealistic'

Michel Barnier’s mandate was called into question. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Michel Barnier’s mandate was called into question. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

A new UK government proposal for EU leaders to give the Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier a mandate to reopen the withdrawal deal has been dismissed as "nonsense" by the Irish Government.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has proposed that leaders of the EU's 27 member states give Mr Barnier a new mandate to renegotiate the agreement in order to avoid a no-deal scenario on October 31.

"There is simply no chance of any deal being passed that includes the anti-democratic backstop. This is the reality that the EU has to face," Mr Barclay wrote yesterday.

But the Irish Government rejected Mr Barclay's proposal within hours of it appearing in the 'Mail on Sunday'.

A spokesperson for Tánaiste Simon Coveney told the Irish Independent: "The EU's position couldn't be clearer, the Withdrawal Agreement is not up for renegotiation."

An Irish Government source characterised Mr Barclay's latest proposal as "more of this nonsense".

Oireachtas Brexit Committee chairman Senator Neale Richmond said Mr Barclay's idea was "unrealistic" and pointed out that the Conservative cabinet minister, who was reappointed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month, had voted for the withdrawal deal in parliament on the three occasions that it was put to a vote by former prime minister Theresa May earlier this year.

"To read Mr Barclay discussing mandates and issuing instructions to Michel Barnier is unfortunate.

"There is no way he had a mandate for a no deal but this is what this British government, with a parliamentary majority of just one, is now pushing towards," Mr Richmond said.

"The Withdrawal Agreement is the product of 18 tortuous months of negotiation, it is a fair, compromise agreement that can allow the UK to leave the EU in an orderly fashion while meeting its responsibilities."

In his opinion piece published yesterday, Mr Barclay wrote that the withdrawal deal would not be accepted as is and argued that the EU's own mandate had been changed as a result of the outcome of May's European Parliament elections.

"EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier is telling us his instructions from European leaders mean he cannot change it. As he told me when we spoke last week, his mandate is his mandate - he can only negotiate what the commission and leaders of member states have agreed.

"But the political realities have changed since Mr Barnier's instructions were set. Since the last mandate was agreed, 61pc of all the EU states' MEPs have changed. Such a fundamental shift illustrates the need for a change of approach.

"Mr Barnier needs to urge EU leaders to consider this if they too want an agreement, to enable him to negotiate in a way that finds common ground with the UK. Otherwise, no deal is coming down the tracks."

Mr Barclay's proposal came amid a report that Mr Johnson's chief aide, Dominic Cummings, told MPs last week that even losing a no-confidence vote in parliament could not stop the government taking the UK out of the EU on October 31. The 'Sunday Telegraph' reported that Mr Cummings said the prime minister could set an election date for after the Brexit deadline, meaning the UK still leaves at Halloween.

Irish Independent

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