In Brief

Michael Gove says the EU is ‘refusing to negotiate’

Minister claims he is ‘deeply saddened’ by EU's position

Michael Gove, the minister with responsibility for no-deal preparations, has said that he is “deeply saddened that the EU now seem to be refusing to negotiate with UK”.

Gove said “we do need a new approach” but added that “the days of drift we've had in the past have ended”.

The BBC said the minister’s comments come “after the EU said UK demands to remove the Irish backstop from Theresa May's deal were unacceptable”.

EU leaders have refused to comply to the demands, with a spokesperson for the European Commission confirming again: “We will not re-open the withdrawal agreement.”

Sky News says Brussels has left some room for wriggling. It reports that EU chiefs have stated that the non-binding political declaration setting out the terms for negotiations on the future relationship could be changed and that “we do remain open to hold talks should the UK wish to clarify its position”.

However, Gove painted a different picture. Speaking yesterday morning, he said: “At the moment it's the EU that seems to be saying they're not interested - they're simply saying 'no we don't want to talk'. I think that's wrong and sad.

“We can't have a deal that doesn't command the confidence of the government, the parliament and the country.”

He added that the prime minister “will apply all the energy of the government and ensure that in the spirit of friendliness we can negotiate a new deal,” but added: “Whatever happens, while we remain ready and willing to negotiate, the EU must appreciate that we’re leaving on 31 October, deal or no deal.”

His statements come in the wake of a report in the Daily Telegraph that Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief strategist, has threatened Downing Street staff with the sack if they tried to block no deal.

Although the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has insisted he is not “fatalistic” and a hard Brexit can be avoided, he warned its chances grow by the day.

A senior EU diplomat quoted in The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph agrees, saying: “our working hypothesis is no-deal”.

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