12:51 GMT +318 November 2019
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    Britain's Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Stephen Barclay is seen outside Downing Street in London

    British Brexit Minister Urges EU to Change Terms of Talks, Reconsider Backstop

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    After former UK Prime Minister Theresa May failed to deliver her Brexit deal by March 2019, the deadline was eventually moved to 31 October, with the PM subsequently stepping down. The timing of her resignation is expected to play into the hands of her successor, who can now stick to his Halloween Brexit pledge no matter what.

    New Brexit Minister Stephen Barclay has stated in an article for The Mail on Sunday that EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier should adjust to the new “political realities” that have arisen since his instructions were set following the referendum in 2016. He pointed out that Barnier’s mandate should reflect these changes and that the top diplomat should therefore turn to the EU leadership and urge them to consider re-negotiating the divorce deal, despite his earlier statements that the EU would stick to the current Withdrawal Agreement.

    “Mr. Barnier needs to urge EU leaders to consider this if they too want an agreement, to enable him to negotiate in a way that finds common ground with the UK. Otherwise, No Deal is coming down the tracks”, Barclay wrote.

    He emphasised that it is the British government’s “firm view that Irish border issues should be dealt with in talks on the future agreement between the UK and the EU”. He signalled that they are ready to talk “in good faith on this basis”.

    New Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier insisted that there is no point to discuss the deal again if the EU is not ready to drop the Northern Irish backstop that was agreed on with Theresa May. He also pledged to deliver Brexit by the current deadline on 31 October with or without an agreement.

    His special adviser Dominic Cummings recently warned ministers and other UK officials that his boss will be able to stick to this pledge, even if the Labour Party and Conservative Remainers attempt to force a general election, The Telegraph reports. He allegedly said that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had missed his opportunity to secure a snap vote before the Brexit deadline.

    According to the outlet, the strategist, pictured as the mastermind behind Johnson’s successful Vote Leave campaign, held a series of briefings last week. He is said to have suggested that even if Corbyn together with pro-Remain Tories crush the current prime minister in a no-confidence vote in September when they return from the summer break, thereby prompting a new election, Johnson could still set the date for the vote after the “Halloween deadline”.

    Thus, the prime minister could honour his promise to steer Britain away from the EU by 31 October, even if it would mean a no-deal Brexit. Johnson’s aide also predicted that the Conservatives would win a majority in such an election.

    He is also said to have warned staff to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, suggesting that European leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron think the UK is “bluffing” or are hoping that the Parliament “will cancel the referendum”. But as Cummings reportedly said, they “won’t realise the Prime Minister is not bluffing until October”, when it would be “too late”.

    The reports come hot on the heels of newly-appointed Chancellor Sajid Javid’s announcement that the UK would pump approximately $1.34 billion in extra funding into preparations for a no-deal scenario.

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