Boris Johnson has a ‘landing zone’ to bring in a Brexit deal insists Cabinet minister Steve Barclay

A Brexit deal with Brussels is possible and Boris Johnson has a ‘landing zone’ to bring it in on, a top minister insisted today. 

Brexit minister Steve Barclay played up the chances of getting an agreement with the EU after ministers last week seemed to block the Government’s path to a No Deal departure.

He also revealed he will meet EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier tomorrow, while the Prime Minister is holding talks with outgoing European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Luxembourg.

Speaking on Sky’s Ridge on Sunday Mr Barclay said: ‘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,’

But he reiterated that any deal was still reliant on the Irish border backstop being removed, adding: ‘We’ve been very clear with the EU about that, Parliament has rejected it three times. 

‘It would involve people in Northern Ireland taking laws over which they have had no vote and therefore the backstop has to go from the Withdrawal Agreement and indeed EU leaders themselves have said they are open to being creative and flexible in terms of future arrangement. 

Speaking on Sky's Ridge on Sunday Mr Barclay said: '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'

Speaking on Sky's Ridge on Sunday Mr Barclay said: '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'

Speaking on Sky’s Ridge on Sunday Mr Barclay said: ‘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’

‘Then it is also the political declaration: we have addressed one of the key questions from the EU which is what sort of future relationship is the UK seeking. 

‘We are very clear we want a best in class free trade agreement, certain issues then flow in terms of changes to the political declaration as a result of that. 

So we have been having those technical discussions, discussing also with Northern Ireland leaders which the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and others have been doing so a huge amount has been happening behind the scenes. 

‘We are very clear what it is we need in order to get a deal through Parliament and those are the discussions that we’ve been having.’

DUP leader Arlene Foster (pictured in London with deputy Nigel Dodds)  moved to quash the speculation of a deal that treats Northern Ireland differently, saying the 'UK must leave as one nation'

DUP leader Arlene Foster (pictured in London with deputy Nigel Dodds)  moved to quash the speculation of a deal that treats Northern Ireland differently, saying the 'UK must leave as one nation'

DUP leader Arlene Foster (pictured in London with deputy Nigel Dodds)  moved to quash the speculation of a deal that treats Northern Ireland differently, saying the ‘UK must leave as one nation’

However there remain many obstacles seemingly in the way of a deal. 

On Friday Mr Johnson’s allies in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) dismissed claims it is ready to accept a watered down backstop to get a Brexit deal. 

What happens next in the Brexit crisis? 

Here is how the coming weeks could pan out:  

September 17: Supreme Court hears case on whether prorogation of Parliament was illegal. 

September 21-25: Labour conference in Brighton 

September 29-October 2: Tory conference takes place in Manchester, with Mr Johnson giving his first keynote speech as leader on the final day. This will be a crucial waypointer on how Brexit talks are going.

October 14: Unless it has already been recalled following the court battle, Parliament is due to return with the Queen’s Speech – the day before Mr Johnson had hoped to hold a snap election.

October 17-18: A crunch EU summit in Brussels, where Mr Johnson has vowed he will try to get a Brexit deal despite Remainers ‘wrecking’ his negotiating position. 

October 19: If there is no Brexit deal by this date Remainer legislation obliges the PM to beg the EU for an extension to avoid No Deal.

October 21: Decisive votes on the Queen’s Speech, which could pave the way for a confidence vote. 

October 31: The current deadline for the UK to leave the EU. 

November/December: An election looks inevitable, but Labour is hinting it might push the date back towards Christmas to humiliate the PM. 

Rumours had been swirling that Boris Johnson is preparing a new version of the ‘insurance policy’ for the Irish border.

Aides have been examining proposals for arrangements that would apply only to Northern Ireland, rather than aligning the whole UK with EU market rules. 

However, DUP leader Arlene Foster moved to quash the speculation, saying the ‘UK must leave as one nation’.

‘We are keen to see a sensible deal but not one that divides the internal market of the UK,’ she said, after previously meeting Mr Johnson in Downing Street.

Mr Johnson has previously stated that he was seeking a ‘backstop-ectomy’, to remove the controversial provision from the Withdrawal Agreement altogether.

However, the task for the PM was made tougher after Parliament passed a law effectively banning No Deal at the end of October, and refused his call to trigger an early general election.

The latest blueprint being floated would not be the same as the previous Northern Ireland-only backstop floated by Brussels, which was dismissed by Theresa May as something no British PM could accept. 

That would have involved the province staying within the EU’s tax jurisdiction.

Instead, the idea is thought to be a much looser alignment of agricultural and food regulations with Ireland.

Mr Johnson insisted he is ‘very hopeful’ of a Brexit deal last week, saying the ‘landing space’ for an agreement was becoming clear. 

However, the EU’s chief negotiator swiped that he is still waiting for ‘concrete, legally operational’ ideas from the UK.

And one of his advisers warned there was ‘no reason for optimism’. 

Downing Street sources played down the tough line from the EU side, branding it a ‘negotiating tactic’. 

Liberal Democrats vote to ignore the referendum and STOP Brexit if Jo Swinson’s party wins a majority at the next general election as they seek to become the home of Remainers after a swathe of pro-EU defections

The Liberal Democrats set out their stall as the home of Remainers today as the party agreed to campaign to stop Brexit entirely if it wins the next election.

Delegates at the party conference in Bournemouth this afternoon voted overwhelmingly to support a motion to revoke Article 50 if it takes power.

The move would stop Brexit in its tracks without the need for a second referendum. 

Jo Swinson’s party was previously campaigning for a second Brexit referendum, but it has now pivoted to out-and-out support for ignoring the 2016 referendum. 

The motion says a Liberal Democrat majority government would be ‘recognised as an unequivocal mandate to revoke Article 50 and for the UK to stay in the EU’.

‘The policy we are debating at conference today is very clear,’ Ms Swinson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show today.

‘If the Liberal Democrats win a majority at the next election, if people put into government, as a majority government, the ”Stop Brexit” party, then stopping Brexit is exactly what people will get. Yes, we will revoke Article 50.’

Ms Swinson told the BBC today: 'If the Liberal Democrats win a majority at the next election, if people put into government, as a majority government, the ''Stop Brexit'' party, then stopping Brexit is exactly what people will get'

Ms Swinson told the BBC today: 'If the Liberal Democrats win a majority at the next election, if people put into government, as a majority government, the ''Stop Brexit'' party, then stopping Brexit is exactly what people will get'

Ms Swinson told the BBC today: ‘If the Liberal Democrats win a majority at the next election, if people put into government, as a majority government, the ”Stop Brexit” party, then stopping Brexit is exactly what people will get’

Ex-party leader Sir Vince Cable predicted at the conference today (pictured) more MPs would defect from major parties to join the Lib Dems, and accused Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of treating Brexit 'cynically'.

Ex-party leader Sir Vince Cable predicted at the conference today (pictured) more MPs would defect from major parties to join the Lib Dems, and accused Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of treating Brexit 'cynically'.

Ex-party leader Sir Vince Cable predicted at the conference today (pictured) more MPs would defect from major parties to join the Lib Dems, and accused Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of treating Brexit ‘cynically’.

The pro-EU party is enjoying a revival under Ms Swinson’s watch, having seen a host of MPs defect to her party with its clear stance on Britain’s relationship with Brussels.

Sam Gyimah, a former Tory minister, became the sixth MP to switch allegiance to the party this year and some polling companies predict the Lib Dems could take as much as a fifth of the vote at the next election – up from just 7% in 2017.

And in a bid to ensure the Lib Dems go into the next election as the most fervently Remain-supporting party, Ms Swinson is asking members to vote on whether to adopt revoking Article 50 as its central Brexit policy at its conference in Bournemouth on Sunday.  

East Dunbartonshire MP Ms Swinson added: ‘We have argued that a specific Brexit deal should be put to a People’s Vote to give clarity.

‘We still argue for that. But if we end up at a general election then I think we need to be straight forward with people and give them an option for all this Brexit chaos to stop.

‘I recognise not everyone agrees with the Lib Dems on this. (But) it is genuinely what we think is right for the country.’

Sir Vince predicted more MPs would defect from major parties to join the Lib Dems, and accused Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of treating Brexit ‘cynically’.

He said: ‘For three years Jeremy Corbyn and his allies have cynically sat on the fence on the biggest issue of our generation.

‘They believe that membership of the EU is just a side issue, a distraction from the class struggle, a capitalist project of no great interest. A generation of young people in particular has been betrayed.

‘That, and the Labour Party’s ugly intolerance and anti-Semitism, have brought us the considerable talents of Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger and Angela Smith to complement Sarah Wollaston, Philip Lee and Sam Gyimah from the other side of the aisle.

‘Within the next few weeks and months I hope and expect that the trickle from both sides will become a flood. Something big is happening here.’

James Cleverly

James Cleverly

Sam Gyimah

Sam Gyimah

James Cleverly (left) blasted the Lib Dems for trying to ignore the Brexit vote, hours after former Tory leadership contender Sam Gyimah (right) defected to Jo Swinson’s party

James Cleverly, chairman of the Conservative Party, predicted the Lib Dem stance would lead to ‘more delay, division and uncertainty’.

‘Despite calling herself a ‘democrat’, Jo Swinson’s mask has slipped and we now know that she wants to overrule one of the largest democratic votes in British history, cancelling Brexit,’ said the Braintree MP.

For Ms Swinson to secure a majority in the House of Commons and become prime minister, she would have to increase her current number of 18 MPs, which includes Mr Gyimah’s recent defection, to more than 350, gaining an election upswing never seen before in British electoral history.

She admitted the party would need to take a ‘leap’ to achieve such results but said she wanted to ‘build the movement to do that’.

But she also vowed, in an effort to convince middle-class Europhiles to vote for her party, that she would not support efforts to install Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister if there was another hung parliament.

‘Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are not fit to be prime minister. We see that day in, day out,’ she told the BBC.

Delegates at the party conference in Bournemouth this afternoon voted overwhelmingly to support a motion to revoke Article 50 if it takes power

Delegates at the party conference in Bournemouth this afternoon voted overwhelmingly to support a motion to revoke Article 50 if it takes power

Delegates at the party conference in Bournemouth this afternoon voted overwhelmingly to support a motion to revoke Article 50 if it takes power

‘Jeremy Corbyn is not going to be put into Number 10 with Lib Dem votes because he is not fit for the position. The country deserves better.’

The Lib Dems is hosting its annual autumn conference at the Bournemouth International Centre in Dorset, with the mood of a party on the rise only boosted by Mr Gyimah being introduced as a new party MP live on stage on Saturday night during a colourful rally.

Mr Gyimah used his introduction to blast both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, accusing them of presiding over ‘intolerant’ parties and said joining the Lib Dems would allow him to continue to fight for ‘liberal values’.

It was not all plain sailing for the party, however, with fiery questions from members over its decision to admit former Tory Dr Philip Lee, who abstained on supporting gay marriage.

The party’s chief whip, Alistair Carmichael, said: ‘Could we have handled it better? Hands up, we absolutely could.’

Day two of the conference is set to prove eventful also as members gather to decide whether to approve Ms Swinson’s policy to stand on a platform of revoking Article 50 at the next election.

There also promises to be an emotional goodbye to Sir Vince Cable, the party’s former leader who has announced he will stand down as an MP at the next election.

In what is looking like his final speech as a party MP, the 76-year-old is expected to call for the party to be a ‘broad church’ in response to Labour and the Tories, he argues, drifting away from the centre ground.

Ms Swinson is also due to take questions from members in the afternoon, and there will be a speech from newly elected MP Jane Dodds, who won the Brecon and Radnorshire seat last month after a joint decision by Remain-backing parties to stand down all other candidates.     

 

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