Dominic Raab has admitted there are still “significant issues” to overcome as the UK and the EU enter the final stages of Brexit negotiations.
Speaking in Brussels following a meeting with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, the Brexit Secretary said talks would now intensify as officials sought to resolve areas of disagreement – including on the Northern Irish border and future trading arrangements.
He told reporters: “There are still significant issues to overcome – yes, on Northern Ireland and I think we both recognise that but also on the future relationship – and it’s important to view the whole deal as a package.
“We agreed that we need to step up the intensity of the negotiations as we come into the final phase and we have agreed to meet regularly and resolve at a political level those outstanding issues that remain under technical consideration.”
Barnier added: “We must find pragmatic solutions in line with the commitments made by prime minister May in December and March.
“The negotiations are now entering the final stage. We have agreed that the EU and the UK will negotiate continuously from now onward.”
The pair agreed that progress had been made on defence and security cooperation, but Barnier said that in some areas, particularly trade, UK demands contradicted the EU’s guidelines.
Asked if it was realistic that a deal would be reached by October, Rabb said he was “confident” that would happen, however Barnier suggested talks could run on into November.
This comes as the government prepares to release plans for a ‘no deal’ Brexit in a series of technical notices this Thursday.
The papers will offer advice to businesses, public bodies and citizens on how to prepare for the possibility of Britain leaving the bloc next March without an agreement.
The government is expected to publish around 70 technical notices between now and late September.
Raab said the documents were necessary to “make sure that we are prepared for all eventualities,” but insisted the UK remained committed to reaching an agreement with Brussels.