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13.43 6 Oct 2019


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The UK's Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has indicated that Britain would be flexible on the issue of consent regarding Northern Ireland's regulatory alignment with the EU.

In his latest plans, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed that Northern Ireland should follow EU regulations for at least four years but leave the customs unions.

This proposal to remove the backstop would also ask the Northern Ireland institutions at Stormont to vote on whether they wished to remain under the plan every four years.

Mr Barclay said the British Prime Minister's plans are "very serious" and contain the "crucial addition of consent" on the regulatory zones which addresses concerns over the backstop.

He said on the BBC's Andrew Marr this morning: "The key issue is the principle of consent, that's why the backstop was rejected three times, that was the concern in terms of both sides in Northern Ireland not approving of the backstop.

"So the key is the principle of consent, now of course in the mechanism, as part of the intensive negotiations we could look at that and discuss that.

However, Mr Johnson's recent proposals for a new Brexit deal have been met with a cool reception by Brussels, with the European Commission said they "do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement".

Under legislation passed last month by opposition MPs in the UK, the British Prime Minister is compelled to seek a fresh Brexit delay if he fails to secure a deal by October 19.

Writing in several UK newspapers today, Mr Johnson said the UK would be "walking out" of the EU in 25 days without a deal if Brussels does not compromise.

Mr Barclay refused to give an explicit commitment that Mr Johnson would write a letter seeking an Article 50 extension in the absence of a deal after this month's EU summit on Octover 17 and 18.

He said: "I can absolutely confirm that the government will abide by the law."

Scotland's highest civil court has heard from UK government lawyers that Mr Johnson accepts he must send a letter requesting a delay to Brexit if no deal is agreed by October 19.

Mr Barclay added: "If a commitment is given to the court, you abide by it."

Mr Barclay also revealed the UK government has been holding talks with opposition MPs in a bid to secure their backing for Mr Johnson's proposed deal.

He said that ministers are "considering" whether to hold a vote in the House of Commons on the Brexit proposals before this month's EU summit, in order to show Brussels that the plans have parliament's approval.

Additional reporting by IRN

Main image: Britain's Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay arriving for a cabinet meeting at Downing Street earlier this week. Photo:  Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/Press Association Images

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