Brexit: Dominic Raab denies Barnier talks ‘frustration’

Dominic Raab
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Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has denied reports Michel Barnier has turned down UK requests for extended meetings in Brussels.

Mr Raab was said by The Guardian to have been frustrated by the EU chief negotiator’s alleged failure to make himself available for talks.

But Mr Raab told a Lords Committee he had a “good professional and personal rapport” with Mr Barnier.

And he would be holding a “long” meeting with him on Friday.

Mr Raab vowed to increase the pace and frequency of talks with Mr Barnier when he took over in July from David Davis, who quit as Brexit Secretary in protest at Theresa May’s white paper on trade with the EU when Britain leaves.

“I’m confident that a deal is within our sights,” Mr Raab told the Lords EU Committee.

“We’re bringing ambition, pragmatism, energy and if, and I expect it will be, and if it is matched, we get a deal.”

He added: “Firstly, in relation to whatever tittle tattle may appear in whatever newspaper, I shall be over in Brussels tomorrow (Thursday) evening for a long, substantive meeting on Friday, I hope that gives you the facts directly with Michel Barnier.”

Britain is on course to leave the EU on 29 March. Both sides are hoping to agree a divorce deal and a statement on future trading relations by the next EU summit on 17 October – but Mr Raab suggested that deadline could slip.

“I think it is important as we enter the final phase of the negotiations in the lead up to the October council – and the possibility that it may creep beyond that – we want to see some renewed energy.

“We’re bringing the ambition and the substance of our white paper on the future relationship and also I think some pragmatism to try and go the extra mile to get the deal that I think is in both sides interests. We need that to be matched obviously, it’s a negotiation.”

Theresa May’s chief Brexit advisor Olly Robbins will no longer have to face questions from MPs or peers, Mr Raab told the committee, which is holding a special meeting during Parliament’s summer recess.

The two men were grilled by MPs in a joint appearance before the Commons Brexit committee in July.

But Mr Raab told the Lords EU committee that in future it would be ministers only – and not civil servants – that “come and be accountable” to Parliamentary committees over Brexit.

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