23:17 GMT +319 May 2019
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    Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. File photo

    Tony Blair Joins Choir of New Brexit Vote Backers as UK-EU Talks Stall

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    With the deadline for the Brexit agreement drawing closer, the UK and the EU remain at odds over a number of major withdrawal issues, including post-Brexit customs arrangements.

    EU Not Eager to Delegate 'Control of Money'

    Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has joined the club of the second Brexit vote supporters, tweeting that no-one who voted in the 2016 referendum "wanted a poorer country" which now has to stockpile food and medicines.

    His remarks came as The Times' YouGov poll has revealed that the overwhelming majority of respondents are ready to support a referendum on the final terms of the Brexit deal.

    The Final Say campaign for a second Brexit referendum was earlier backed by an array of other UK politicians.

    They included ex-Attorney General Dominic Grieve, who said that second referendum is "the sensible way forward" and former Education Secretary Justine Greening, who slammed the government's current Brexit blueprint as "the worst of both worlds" which would "suit no-one."

    England football legend Gary Lineker also signaled his support for a second referendum, describing Brexit as a process which "is going very wrong indeed" and blaming the British government for being unable "to resolve the problem the people gave them in voting to Leave [in 2016]."

    Chief Brexit Negotiator Rejects May's Customs Proposals

    Meanwhile, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has rejected proposals on customs after Brexit which were earlier put forward by UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

    "Maintaining control of our money, law and borders also applies to the EU customs policy. The EU cannot and will not delegate the application of its customs policy and rules, VAT and duty collection to a non-member who would not be subject to the EU governance structures," Barnier pointed out.

    READ MORE: UK to Stockpile Medicines and 'Vital Supplies' as No-Deal Brexit Looms

    Referring to the government's plan to keep the UK within the EU’s customs system for goods, Barnier expressed doubt that "it can be done without putting at risk the integrity of the customs union, our common commercial policy, regulatory policy and fiscal revenue."

    According to the so-called Chequers plan, adopted by the UK cabinet earlier in the month, Brussels and London could create a free trade area for goods and maintain a "common rulebook" for all the goods.

    Reports on Likely Food Shortages 'Show How Far Government is From Reality'

    In the meantime, speculation is rife that the government is stockpiling food in case its supply chain is significantly disrupted as a result of a hard Brexit.

    Ian Wright, chief executive of the UK Food and Drink Federation, have announced that he "would very much welcome a conversation with the government" related to its plans on the matter, in anticipation of the UK crashing out of the EU without a withdrawal deal in March 2019.

    READ MORE: EU May Hit Back if UK Drops Food Safety Checks in No-Deal Brexit – Report

    The statement came as The Financial Times cited an unnamed British supermarket chief as saying that London's stance on the matter was "ridiculous."

    "It's ridiculous. It's scary because it shows how far the government is from the reality of how things work. It's genuinely worrying," the chief said.
    The standpoint was echoed by other supermarket heads, who singled out the so-called "just in time" supply model, which stipulates that fresh food could not be stockpiled for more than a few days.

    READ MORE: 'Very Mythical': Netizens Ridicule Brexit White Paper Translation Fiasco

    "This is the sort of contingency planning taking place — you certainly can't stockpile salad," an unnamed retailed was quoted by The Financial Times as saying.

    Earlier, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab rejected speculation that the government is stockpiling food but admitted that London will try to ensure that a possible no Brexit deal scenario would not disrupt food supplies.

    We will look at this issue in the round and make sure that there are adequate food supplies. It would be wrong to describe it as the government doing the stockpiling. And, of course, the idea that we only get food imports into this country from one continent is not appropriate," he said.


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