Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has said he is “confident that a deal is within our sights” while appearing before peers to discuss progress of the Government’s negotiations to leave the EU.
Mr Raab answered questions for almost two hours from members of the Lords EU Committee in Parliament over the UK’s exit from the European Union.
The Cabinet minister said he had quickly established a “good professional and personal rapport” with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier. But he later hinted the timing of the Brexit talks this autumn may change.
Mr Barnier told reporters in Berlin after a meeting with German foreign minister Heiko Maas: “We are prepared to offer Britain a partnership such as there never has been with any other third country.”
Addressing peers, Mr Raab said he would be in Brussels tomorrow ahead of meetings on Friday, adding: “I’m confident that a deal is within our sights. We’re bringing ambition, pragmatism, energy and if, and I expect it will be, and if it is matched, we get a deal.”
He added: “I think it is important as we enter the final phase of the negotiations in the lead up to the October council and the possibility that it may creep beyond that, we want to see some renewed energy.
“We’re bringing the ambition and the substance of our white paper on the future relationship and also I think some pragmatism to try and go the extra mile to get the deal that I think is in both sides’ interests. We need that to be matched obviously, it’s a negotiation.”
Mr Raab struck a bullish tone during his exchanges with peers, who aired their concerns and sought greater detail on issues including the Northern Ireland border issue, the proposed new facilitated customs arrangement, the current state of talks, plus preparations for a no-deal scenario.
Labour peer Lord Liddle said: “We’re begging for this, because without it we know we will suffer grave industrial consequences.”
Mr Raab responded: “That’s hyperbole. We don’t beg and I certainly don’t beg.”
The Brexit Secretary also hinted that on the financial settlement, a no-deal scenario could affect arrangements over payments to the EU.
After a mobile phone sounded in the committee room, Mr Raab joked: “It’s probably someone from Brussels trying to check in on the money.”
He added: “The financial settlement, as it’s calibrated in the withdrawal agreement, reflects a whole range of considerations not just the strict legal obligations and if we left with no deal then not only would there be a question around quite what the shape of those financial obligations were as a matter of strict law, but secondly on the timing.