EU backs down? Barnier lays ground work for huge Brussels u-turn on Brexit

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Michel Barnier has been given the “necessary flexibility” to continue with Brexit negotiations, according to Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin. The national leader was giving his assessment of the first day of summit meetings between the European Council. The EU group had claimed not enough progress had been made for an agreement.

Mr Martin told the press: “Yesterday I think we had a very comprehensive and extensive range of discussions, commencing of course with the discussions on Brexit.

“Our conclusions, I think, represented and reflected a very constructive discussion.

“We received a very good assessment of the current state of negotiations from our chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.

“He emphasised the need for mutual respect in these negotiations.”

He continued: “And I think he was given the necessary flexibility to continue with the negotiations on behalf of the European Council to ensure a comprehensive, fair and free trade deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

“That’s how we would like to see things evolve now and in the future weeks to bring this to a conclusion.”

The key areas of the level playing field, government and fisheries still remain sticking points for negotiations.

EU leaders have called for the UK to make the necessary moves to strike a deal before the transition period deadline in December.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has now urged the union to also shift from their hard positions.

She said: “We have asked GB to continue to be ready to compromise for the purpose of an agreement.

“This, of course, implies that we will also have to compromise. Each side has its red lines.”

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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab expressed his “disappointment” at the conclusions from the Council.

He told the BBC: “Obviously there comes a natural deadline, we’ve got to give businesses and services certainty.

“We’ve narrowed down the issues to the fisheries and level playing field, but they’re key points of principle.

“I’m surprised and disappointed by frankly the lack of flexibility and will that at least seems to have come out of the European Council.

“We have always said there’s a deal to be done, but it must require flexibility and pragmatism on both sides. That feels a bit lacking from the European Union.”

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