Brexit update:Chief Negotiator for the United Kingdom Michel Barnier has said UK and Brussels are “not really in a position” to find agreement.
Ahead of a critical EU summit, it emerged that the prime minister was preparing a historic Saturday Commons sitting on 19 October, in a last-ditch bid to avoid asking the European Union for delay in Brexit.
Boris Johnson and his advisers are reportedly ready to tell Queen she cannot sack him, even if he loses a no-confidence vote in the Commons later this month a plan ridiculed by lawyers and historians.
Scotland’s highest civil court has also delayed ruling on whether to order Mr Johnson to ask for a Brexit extension or have an official sign the extension letter if he refuses to do so until 21 October.
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Earlier,Mr Barnier has called on Boris Johnson to rein in the Downing Street aides responsible for attacking the German chancellor this week as the EU doubled down on its rejection of the prime minister’s proposals.
As talks between British and EU officials in Brussels came to a sudden halt, the EU’s chief negotiator told the European parliament “We’re not really in a position where we’re able to find an agreement.”
Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s Brexit coordinator, said he would not be as “diplomatic” as the bloc’s negotiator. “I think that the proposal that PM Johnson one week ago put forward was not serious at all,” he said. “I call it a virtual proposal, not a real proposal.”
Barnier had used his appearance in the parliament’s regular discussion on the objectives of next week’s EU leaders’ summit to calmly unpick each of the UK’s ideas for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit.
After rejecting the imposition of a customs border on the island of Ireland, and the plans for Stormont to have a veto on Northern Ireland’s alignment with the EU’s single market in goods, Barnier said: “The proposal of the British government as things stand isn’t something we can accept. It replaces an operational, practical, legal solution with one that is simply a temporary solution.”
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But he also issued a thinly veiled reprimand to the prime minister over Downing Street’s aggressive tactics, including the anonymous briefing to journalists attributed to Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, about Angela Merkel’s recent phone call with the prime minister.
“In this moment, where we are now, we will remain calm, we will remain constructive and we will be respectful of the UK and those who lead it,” Barnier said. “That is our approach and we hope that with this attitude on both sides we will be able to come to an agreement that works for everyone.”
The European commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, told MEPs: “We are not accepting this blame game which started in London. We are not to be blamed but we will see in the next coming days how things will develop.”
Verhofstadt most clearly expressed the anger felt by many at the briefings from Downing Street, in which it was claimed that the EU was “willing to torpedo the Good Friday agreement”. Merkel was said in the anonymous briefing to have also refused to allow North Ireland to leave the bloc’s customs union.
Verhofstadt said: “It is a blame game. A blame game against everybody. A blame game against the European union, against Ireland, against Mrs Merkel, against the British judicial system, against Labour, against Lib Dems, even Mrs May.
“The only one who is not to be blamed is Mr Johnson apparently. All those who are not playing his game are traitors, are collaborators, are surrenderers.
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