Thursday 27 June 2019

Raab claims better offer from the EU was rejected by officials

Not firm enough: Former UK Brexit secretary Dominic Raab. Picture: PA
Not firm enough: Former UK Brexit secretary Dominic Raab. Picture: PA
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

A former UK Brexit minister has claimed there was an alternative solution on the table for the Irish backstop but that it was railroaded by officials.

Dominic Raab, who resigned from Theresa May's cabinet when the Withdrawal Agreement was presented, had advocated for a finite and time-limited backstop.

However, a key red line for the EU has always been that any backstop - which is essentially an insurance policy to prevent a hard Border on the island of Ireland - would need to be in place "unless and until" a new agreement could be found to replace it.

Previously, it emerged that Mr Raab wanted the backstop to be reviewed after just 12 weeks.

Speaking on Sky News with presenter Sophie Ridge, Mr Raab claimed there were moments during negotiations when the UK could have pressed harder", including in relation to the backstop.

"The EU hung tough and I'm afraid we just weren't firm enough," he said, urging that the UK take a more "robust" stance now.

Mr Raab claimed that the backstop was taken in a different direction when negotiations moved to the officials-led process.

"I made it clear that it would need to be time-limited and finite. Michel Barnier at one point in one of our meetings said 'I understand it needs to be short', but I'm afraid after that ultimately the technical track for the negotiations took it in another direction," he said.

"I was very clear to the prime minister that we should have stood firm at that point and that was back in July."

Mr Raab conceded he was "partly" responsible for the UK not pushing hard enough but said that officials led the technical groups and that ultimately Theresa May led the charge.

If concessions cannot be won on the backstop then the UK must be prepared to crash out and leave the EU on World Trade Organisation terms, he added.

"It's always harder to go back in a negotiation so I'm not saying it would be easy, but I certainly wouldn't give up," he said.

Irish Independent

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