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‘Substantial steps’ required to break Brexit stand-off, say Germans

The comments come ahead of a summit on Wednesday to decide whether to grant the UK another extension to prevent a no-deal Brexit on Friday.

A senior German official has said substantial steps must be taken to break the Brexit stand-off (PA)
A senior German official has said substantial steps must be taken to break the Brexit stand-off (PA)

“Substantial steps” must be taken to break the Brexit stand-off, a senior German official has demanded.

Michael Roth, Germany’s deputy foreign minister, has said any delay must come with strict conditions, as Prime Minister Theresa May prepares to plead for more time in Berlin.

Within the European Union, there isn't an endless readiness to keep talking about delays so long as there is no substantial progress on the British side Michael Roth, Germany's deputy foreign minister

As he arrived at a European Union meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday, Mr Roth said “so far absolutely nothing has changed” and “we are in a very, very frustrating situation here”.

Mr Roth said that “within the European Union, there isn’t an endless readiness to keep talking about delays so long as there is no substantial progress on the British side”.

Mrs May has asked for a new delay until June 30 but, according to reports, Brexit could be delayed by nearly a year under plans being considered by EU officials.

Such an extension would mean the UK had to take part in European parliamentary elections, a prospect anathema to hardline Brexiteer Tories, and could be sidelined from budget decisions in Brussels.

The Prime Minister is embarking on a diplomatic flurry which will see her meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of a crunch EU summit on Wednesday.

All 27 remaining EU heads of government must agree to an extension if the UK is to avoid the default position of a no-deal Brexit on Friday night.

On Monday night, MPs and peers backed a new law to extend the Brexit process and cross-party talks are expected to continue in the hope of finding a compromise.

Meanwhile, talks between the Government and Labour aimed at finding a cross-party consensus on the way forward are due to resume on Tuesday, following technical discussions between officials on Monday.

The latest round of talks will include Mrs May’s de facto deputy, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, and Chancellor Philip Hammond from the Government side, with shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer and shadow chancellor John McDonnell from Labour.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said the talks were taking place in a “constructive manner” but that it was too early to say whether they would reach an agreement.

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(PA Graphics)

After Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged the Prime Minister to move on her negotiating “red lines”, Mr Gauke acknowledged there would need to be flexibility on both sides.

“To reach a resolution the likelihood is there will need to be flexibility from all sides,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“The talks so far have been undertaken in a constructive manner from both sides. There are some areas of common ground but there are also well-known areas of disagreement.

“There is a lot of work going on at the moment in terms of identifying where we can move forward.”

Mr Gauke played down a report that Mrs May was considering offering MPs a vote on whether to hold a confirmatory referendum on any Brexit deal that was agreed.

“In the discussions I have had with the Prime Minister she had made it very clear that she doesn’t want a confirmatory referendum,” he said.

He acknowledged, however, that there were likely to be further attempts to put down amendments requiring a confirmatory public vote when any agreement was put to Parliament for ratification.

PA

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