Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay has urged negotiators on both sides to compromise, comparing the situation to the background that led to the Good Friday Agreement.
Speaking in Madrid today, Barclay called for “creativity and flexibility” to avoid a no deal Brexit by addressing the ongoing problems around the Irish backstop.
He quoted Lord Trimble, one of the architects of the watershed deal brokered in the 1990s, as looking for “a peace within the realm of the possible”.
Barclay added: “What he, Bertie Ahern, others negotiated, stood the test of time – and it was a leap of faith, with the strongest political will.
“So now is not the time whether in Luxembourg for postures with podiums and protesters. Because the clock is ticking for us all.”
He told business leaders that the Commission’s position was “inconsistent”, and reiterated the government’s position that a backstop would not be necessary until the end of the implementation period.
“Why risk crystallising an undesirable result this November, when both sides can work together until December 2020,” he said.
The minister also questioned the EU’s preparedness for no deal, saying he was “surprised to hear the Commission claim that the EU is fully prepared. Fully prepared for no deal is what the Commission says.
“There’s a difference in my view between having legislation in place and operational preparedness,” he added. “I wonder within this audience how confident it is that small and medium sized businesses across Spain are fully prepared for that sort of change.”
Barclay also used the speech to confirm he will be meeting Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, for talks tomorrow.
The pair met during Boris Johnson’s lunch with Jean-Claude Juncker, however this is the first time they have held specific discussions since Johnson became the Prime Minister in July.
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