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UK and EU have ‘philosophical difference’ on Brexit but talks are not falling apart, claims Michael Gove

The UK and the EU have a 'philosophical difference' on Brexit, according to Michale Gove (PA)

3 min read

The Brexit talks are going well but the UK and the EU have a “philosophical difference” on their future relationship, according to Michael Gove.

Amid reports a potential deal is unlikely to be agreed by the end of the year, the Cabinet Office minister urged Brussels to show “their fabled flexibility” to get something done.

His comments come after the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost hit out at the EU’s “ideological approach” and warned there had been “very little progress” in the latest round of talks.

Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show how things were going Mr Gove said: “I think well. But with one proviso, and the proviso is there's a big difference - philosophical difference - between the position that we take, and the position that the European Commission take.

“The European Commission wants us to follow the rules, even though we've left the club.

"And the European Commission want to have the same access to our fish as they had when we were in the EU even though we're out.”

Pressed on whether that actually meant the talks were going badly, the minister replied: “No, I think that there's been a good conversation.

“I’ve had a good conversation with my counterpart, the vice president of the Commission, about making sure that the rights of citizens are protected. 

“The challenge for the EU is to show just a little bit of their fabled flexibility.”

But speaking to Sky News, Mr Gove's Labour counterpart Rachel Reeves suggested her party could push for the Brexit transition period to be extended and urged the Government not to rush the trade talks.

The Shadow Cabinet Office minister said: "I would say to the Government the most important thing is we get a good deal, not any deal, but the best deal we can have.

"The last thing our country and our economy needs at the moment is a further shock that could put jobs and livelihoods at risk.

"So, don't rush this, all of the attention of government at the moment is on fighting the coronavirus, that is the right thing, don't rush this, take the time that is needed.

"But at the moment the Government is saying we can still do this by the end of the year and we need to hold them to account to getting not just any deal, but the best deal we can, by the end of this year.”

This weekend the SNP's leader at Westminster Ian Blackford and the acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey wrote to Europe's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier calling for an extension to the transition period.

The letter, also signed by MPs from Plaid Cymru, the Green party, the Alliance Party and the SDLP, aimed to highlight the "significant opposition to the UK Government's extreme position amongst the business community, the general public and elected representatives".

But in response a UK Government spokesman said: "The Government was elected on a manifesto which made clear the transition period would end on December 31, 2020. That is enshrined in primary legislation and it remains our policy.

"We will not ask to extend the transition period, and if the EU asks we will say no."

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