Europe

Rishi Sunak breaks out in laughter as he mocks Labour peer’s Brexit ‘crisis’ warning

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak broke out in laughter during his Economic Affairs Committee session after a Labour peer attempted to catch him out with a link to Brexit. Baroness Denise Kingsmill demanded to know what the Government’s plan was for dealing with the coronavirus amid the “future crisis” of the UK leaving the EU. Mr Sunak told her that the “constructive” Brexit talks were nowhere “near in magnitude” to the current pandemic.

Baroness Kingsmill asked: “Chancellor, you’ve got a tough task ahead and you’re dealing with it as well as can be expected.

“I’m wondering how well you’re balancing the pressures that are on you at the moment with those that are likely to come when Brexit happens?”

The Chancellor replied: “I think they’re somewhat separate things. Right now, we’ve taken a set of specific measures to contain a health crisis, and that has implications for our economy which we’ve tried to mitigate.

“With regard to our negotiations with the European Union, they can continue.”

He continued: “Those talks are ongoing, and we’ve been very clear with our partners that we don’t have any intention of extending.

“We believe we’ve put forward a highly reasonable set of proposals based almost entirely on precedent, things that the EU has already agreed with other partners.

“In that vein, we hope that we can have a constructive discussion on it, but the negotiations are ongoing.”

The Labour peer shot back: “I wasn’t really asking about Brexit itself, I was just wondering how you balance up what you have to do now with this crisis with potential for another crisis in future?”

She added: “I wasn’t really interested in the Brexit issue right now in this conversation. I just wondered whether there is a balancing act to be played.”

Mr Sunak laughed as he replied. He said: “I’m not sure what the future crisis you might be referring to is.

“But I certainly wouldn’t see our trading relationship and the degree to which we negotiate a tariff schedule as being anywhere near in magnitude to what we’re currently dealing with.”

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Brexit talks have stalled after a row broke out between the UK’s Chief Negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier.

Mr Frost admitted there has been “very little progress” in talks.

He warned Mr Barnier that he must drop his “ideological approach” within the next fortnight.

Mr Barnier revealed that the latest round of talks had been “very disappointing”, adding that he was not optimistic about the outcome.

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