In Depth

Brexit: what’s on the agenda for marathon Raab-Barnier talks?

The UK and EU negotiators are going head to head in six-hour standoff in Brussels today

UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier will hold six hours of talks in Brussels today, as the clock runs down on Britain’s exit from the EU.

The session is the “longest face-to-face session held between the two men since they agreed to accelerate talks in a desperate effort to hammer out an agreement” and thereby avoid a no-deal Brexit, reports the Daily Mail.

Raab is understood to have been unhappy with the reality of Barnier’s pledge of being available for Brexit talks “24/7”. The Guardian says that Barnier has been “resistant to requests for lengthy meetings with Raab to discuss the details of the UK’s proposals”, which were formalised at Chequers last month.

As the two finally sit down together, what’s on the talks agenda?

A la carte?

Today’s meeting comes two days after the most senior member of Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet, David Lidington, called for the EU to back the PM’s Brexit plan or “risk a no deal scenario”.

In response, Barnier stressed that the EU was “prepared to offer Britain a partnership such as there never has been with any other third country” and that the bloc “respect[s] Britain’s red lines scrupulously”. However, he added that “in return, they must respect what we are”.

“Single market means single market ... There is no single market a la carte,” he warned.

Despite his demands, Barnier appeared to hint at a “climbdown” by the EU earlier this week, when he said that the final deal could “be unique for Britain - not based entirely on the Norway or Canadian models negotiated in the past”, the Daily Mail reports.

Deadline creep

According to the BBC, Barnier and Raab are “hoping to agree a divorce deal and a statement on future trading relations” before an EU summit on 17 October.

Raab told a Lords committee on Wednesday that he had a “good professional and personal rapport” with Barnier and that he was “confident that a deal is within our sights”. 

But the Brexit secretary admitted that the October deadline may slip, and that there was a “possibility it may creep beyond that”.

Withdrawal bill

The Guardian says that Raab “struck an upbeat note throughout most of the 90-minute questioning” by the Lords EU Committee.

However, “he appeared to question whether Britain would consider itself bound to pay the almost £40bn financial settlement it agreed to last December if a final deal is not forthcoming by March”, the newspaper adds.

“I don’t think it could be safely assumed on anyone’s side that the financial settlement that has been agreed as part of the withdrawal bill would then just be paid, in precisely the same shape or speed or rate, if there was no deal,” Raab said.

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