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Dominic Raab in 'clash with Michel Barnier' over British bid for separate no-deal talks

2 min read

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has reportedly clashed with Brussels’ top negotiator after it emerged that the UK has asked EU member states to hold direct talks on plans for a no-deal Brexit.

The UK's Department for Transport has written to the 27 other EU member states asking them to begin separate discussions on keeping key aviation and haulage routes open in the event of Britain leaving the bloc without a deal.

But, according to the Guardian, the move has sparked anger from the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who is said to have confronted Mr Raab directly to raise his concerns.

He reportedly told the Brexit Secretary: "If there is no deal, there is no trust."

The move from the UK came despite warnings from top trade officials in Brussels that no other countries would be willing to enter into side agreements with Britain in the event of a no-deal.

Pressed on the row, an EU official told the paper: "We are working for the withdrawal agreement, which is a deal to avoid a no-deal."

The spat between the pair comes after a claim that Mr Barnier told British MPs Theresa May's Chequers Brexit plan was "dead".

Mr Raab clashed with Labour's Stephen Kinnock in the Commons last week when the Remain-backing MP claimed the Brussels chief had branded the proposals "dead in the water".

But Mr Barnier struck a more upbeat tone this week, as he said a deal on Britain's orderly exit from the EU was possible within six to eight weeks.

Speaking at a conference in Slovenia, the chief negotiator said: "Taking into account the time necessary for the ratification process - the House of Commons on one side, the European Parliament and Council on the other side - we must reach an agreement before the beginning of November. I think it’s possible."

He meanwhile insisted both sides were "not far from agreement", with 80% to 85% of issues already settled.

But he warned: "There are many issues which are not yet solved. We have to solve this issue of Ireland and some others in the next six to eight weeks.”

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