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Sat, 28 November 2020

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Priti Patel says 'entire' government is focused on getting an EU deal

Priti Patel says 'entire' government is focused on getting an EU deal
4 min read

The "entire machinery of government" is now focused on Britain striking a Brexit deal with the European Union, Cabinet minister Priti Patel has declared.

Boris Johnson has previously said Britain will leave the EU "do or die" on 31 October, and has pumped billions into Whitehall's preparations for a no-deal outcome.

But the Home Secretary insisted the Prime Minister is now focused on striking an agreement with the European Union, as he prepares to head to Brussels for talks with EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

She told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "The Prime Minister is fully committed to getting a deal. 

"And I... hope the whole country has heard, certainly through what we've seen in Parliament over the last few weeks, that sheer commitment and determination to ensure that we leave on 31 October and also that the entire machinery of government now is focused on getting that deal and is planning and preparing to leave on 31 October with a deal."

The comments come after MPs rushed a law through the House of Commons aimed at forcing the PM to seek a Brexit extension if he cannot reach an agreement. 

The move is designed to thwart a no-deal Brexit, but Downing Street said Mr Johnson would tell the European Commission president on Monday that Britain is "leaving on 31 October, come what may".

"Some MPs have been peddling a myth that I am not serious about getting a deal," the Prime Minister said.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. I am striving for a deal and I think we can achieve this. I will commit UK officials and my lead negotiator to work flat out to come up with a new agreement without being trapped into EU laws."

Ms Patel - who voted against Theresa May's EU Withdrawal Agreement three times - also made clear that she would vote for any deal signed off by Mr Johnson.

The comments come despite some fellow Tory Brexiteers suggesting that the Prime Minister's central demand - removing the Northern Ireland backstop - will not be enough to win them over.

But Ms Patel said of Mr Johnson: "I'm a member of his government and when he brought me into government along with other colleagues as well we were clear to him as he was to us as well that our focus is on leaving October 31st with a deal. 

"And our job right now... is to absolutely give confidence to securing that deal and backing the Prime Minister in everything that he is doing to secure that deal through the negotiations that are currently underway."

Asked if she would vote for Mr Johnson's deal if an alternative Northern Ireland border plan could be found, Ms Patel said: "Absolutely. We need to leave. This is no longer a discussion about the previous deals and everything that's happened in the past."

Meanwhile Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said the Government was now in the "landing zone" for an agreement with the EU.

"There are extensive talks been happening at a technical level but also at a political level," the Cabinet minister told Sky's Sophy Ridge.

"We can see a landing zone in terms of a future deal but there is significant work still to do. So the talks tomorrow will be an important step forward as part of that.”


He also insisted that the Government would abide by whatever the Supreme Court decides on Tuesday, with a ruling due after Scotland's top civil court found Mr Johnson's advice to the Queen calling for the temporary shutdown of Parliament had been unlawful.

However, the Scottish verdict came in the same week the high court in London and the high court in Belfast respectively dismissed cases challenging the PM's decision to prorogue Parliament as well as the impact of a a no-deal Brexit on Northern Ireland.

"Of course the court in England took a different view to the court in Scotland," Mr Barclay said ahead of Tuesday's hearing at the final court of appeal for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

He added: "We respect the decision of the court, it’s right that this matter now goes to the UK Supreme Court and the government will abide by the decision of the UK Supreme Court, that is the normal flow of these things and that’s absolutely proper."

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