The UK and EU will kick off “intensive” Brexit negotiations today, after EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier gave Brussels the green-light to arrange a deal. John Redwood revealed his piece of advice for Mr Johnson, urging him to seek a free trade agreement. Speaking on how to unlock the Brexit “impasse”, Mr Redwood told BBC’s Today Programme: “I think the border issue is greatly exaggerated because it’s within the interests of the EU and the Republic of Ireland to exaggerate it.
“It’s mainly about what kind of barriers the EU would want to impose on their side because we don’t really need barriers on our side, other than the ones we’ve already got. But the way to unlock it is to have a free trade agreement.
“But why can’t the EU see it and why can’t they understand if they can do a free trade agreement to Japan and Canada they could surely give one to their near neighbours who, under treaty, they have to have a good relationship with us.”
On whether Mr Johnson would have “difficulty” getting his current Brexit proposal through the Commons, the Tory MP for Wokingham said: “I think it’s extremely difficult moving between the option of splitting Northern Ireland off or all of us ending up in the customs union and single market.
“I look forward to seeing what they might be able to find out that is better.”
British and EU officials will begin to take a closer look at Mr Johnson’s proposal to solve the controversial Irish backstop, in what is seen as the last chance to reach an agreement ahead next week’s final EU summit before the October 31 deadline.
On Friday the EU reiterated its commitment to honouring its red lines on preventing a hard border on the island of Ireland after “constructive” talks between Mr Barnier and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay.
In a statement, the EU insisted any solution to the backstop must be “legally operative” and opposes Northern Ireland leaving the customs union with the rest of the UK.
However, Mr Johnson’s plan involves Northern Ireland still being subject to EU tariffs despite leaving the customs union, according to Sky News.
Following talks in Brussels the Prime Minister was adamant he would not accept any arrangement which damaged the ability of “the whole of the United Kingdom” to take full advantage of Brexit, including any new trade deals struck with countries around the world.
Mr Johnson said: “Under no circumstances will we see anything that damages the ability of the whole of the United Kingdom to take full advantage of Brexit.”
Mr Johnson said he could see a “pathway to a deal, but that doesn’t mean it is a done deal”.
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DUP leader Arlene Foster fired a warning to the Prime Minister and stated its 10 MPs in Westminster could not agree to any deal that “traps” Northern Ireland within the blocs trading rules.
Ms Foster said: “We have been consistent in our opposition to the backstop, whether UK or Northern Ireland only.
“Anything that traps Northern Ireland in the European Union, whether single market or customs union, as the rest of the United Kingdom leaves will not have our support. The prime minister is very mindful of that.”
Meanwhile, Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer has said Labour will take action through the courts to prevent Boris Johnson pushing through a no deal Brexit against the will of Parliament.
He said: “If he can’t – or I should say won’t – get a deal we will take whatever steps are necessary to prevent our country crashing out of the EU without a deal.
“If no deal is secured by this time next week, Boris Johnson must seek and accept an extension. That’s the law. No ifs, no buts. And if he doesn’t, we’ll enforce the law – in the courts and in Parliament. Whatever it takes, we will prevent a no-deal Brexit.”
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