French MEP warns backstop 'can't be changed in a minute' and dismisses Brexit progress


The French politician from Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche! party was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if she could see a scenario in which the broad outline of a Brexit agreement was reached, with legal texts to come later. “An agreement can only be detailed, credible, sustainable. And we have to have clarity on every single aspect,” she said, adding that it “has to be able to last”. Asked about talk of a new UK text which reportedly acknowledges some of the EU’s concerns about the new customs arrangement, she said: “This is a rumour, and we have dozens of rumours every day. A lot of leaks and a very hectic way of communicating.”

Ms Loiseau said there is “a lot of goodwill and a lot of caution at the same time”.

On the issue of the backstop agreed by Theresa May, she said it was “the result of two years of hard work and goodwill”.

She added: “You don’t replace it in one minute. This is a very serious issue. It has consequences on the lives of many people on both sides of the Channel.

“So goodwill, yes, but to rush to a deal in any circumstance, certainly not.”

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in a race against the clock to secure a fresh agreement for the meeting of European leaders starting in Brussels on Thursday.

READ MORE: Ireland chaos: Varadkar accused of ‘bananas’ Brexit election plot

Speaking on Tuesday morning as he arrived at the General Affairs Council, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said work to secure a deal has been “intense”, adding: “Because even if an agreement will be difficult, more and more difficult to be frank, it is still possible this week.”

He said: “Reaching an agreement is still possible. Obviously any agreement must work for everyone, the whole of the United Kingdom and the whole of the European Union.

“Let me add also that it is high time to turn good intentions into a legal text.”

The Brussels negotiator pledged to plough on his talks after it emerged that David Frost, Britain’s chief negotiator, tabled new technical customs papers today – which cover precise details on a new market surveillance regime.

But Mr Barnier urged EU ministers to proceed with caution until a legally operative text is provided by UK officials, according to European sources.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick rejected the remarks, stressing a “great deal” of progress had been made and negotiators are working “very intensively”.

He told BBC’s Newsnight: “The EU is capable of moving extremely quickly if they wish to. Like any negotiation with the EU, and in fact with any major negotiation in life, everything happens at the last minute.

“This was always going to be both complicated and come down to the final hours and days, so this doesn’t surprise me. We are going to work round the clock to try to secure it.”

Environment minister Zac Goldsmith was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if he would be prepared to accept a short technical extension to seal a Brexit deal.

“I don’t think an extension is necessary. If both sides wish to secure a deal, a deal can be secured.

“It’s a matter of political will. Where there’s a will there is a way, and that has never been more true than in the case of Brexit,” he said.


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