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UK ‘planning concrete Brexit proposals’

Stephen Barclay and Michel Barnier

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Reuters

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Stephen Barclay and Michel Barnier met for Brexit talks in Brussels

The UK government is planning to put out “concrete proposals” for reaching a Brexit deal with the EU within the next few weeks, the BBC understands.

Brussels correspondent Adam Fleming said it was expected they would be revealed after next week’s Tory conference but in time for scrutiny ahead of the EU summit on 17 October.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said the “moment of truth” was approaching.

The UK is currently due to leave the EU on 31 October.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says this will happen whether or not there is a new deal with Brussels – but adds that he would prefer leaving with a deal.

However, MPs have passed a law requiring Mr Johnson to seek an extension to the deadline from the bloc if he is unable to pass a deal in Parliament, or get MPs to approve a no-deal Brexit, by 19 October.

Mr Barclay held talks with the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, on Friday, telling the BBC afterwards: “I think there is still a long way to go. I think we are coming to the moment of truth in these negotiations.

“We are committed to securing a deal. The prime minister has made clear he wants a deal, but there has to be political will on both sides and that’s what we are exploring.”

The biggest obstacle to a deal is the backstop – the plan to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

The policy – agreed to by former PM Theresa May in her withdrawal deal with the EU, which was rejected three times by Parliament – is unacceptable to many Conservative MPs.

But the European Commission said Mr Barnier had stressed to Mr Barclay during the meeting that it was “essential” there was a “fully operational solution in the withdrawal agreement to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, protect the all-island economy and the integrity of the single market”.

“The EU remains open and willing to examine any workable and legally operative proposals that meet all these objectives,” a statement issued after the meeting said.

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