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Chief EU negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier

EU’s Barnier vows to ‘improve’ Irish border plan to secure Brexit deal but STILL says checks must apply between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland (Daily Mail)

  • Michel Barnier has claimed that talks with UK were now in the ‘home straight’
  • Theresa May will use Salzburg speech to try to kill off idea of a Irish hard border
  • Mr Barnier said last night that EU will ‘improve’ its offer to break the deadlock
  • He claims customs officials could inspect goods entering UK away from border

Michel Barnier has vowed to ‘improve’ the EU’s Irish border plan to secure a Brexit deal – but is still insisting that checks must apply between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.

The bloc’s chief negotiator said he hoped talks were on the ‘home straight’ and he was working on a compromise to bring agreement into ‘grasp’.

But he made clear that the proposal will put the border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK – something Theresa May is adamant she will not accept as it would risk splitting the union.

The manoeuvring comes as Mrs May heads for Salzburg to plead for EU leaders to help break the deadlock in talks.

The premier had hoped to discuss her Chequers plan directly with counterparts for the first time. But EU council president Donald Tusk stepped in to quash the idea – meaning Mrs May will have to make do with a 10 minute speech over dinner tonight that is set to be received in silence by other leaders.

Mr Barnier renewed his efforts to ‘de-dramatise’ the Irish border issue last night by saying he was working on a new draft of his blueprint.

The EU official suggested officials could inspect goods entering the UK via Ireland on ferries and in business premises away from the border.

He said: ‘We are ready to improve this proposal. Work on the EU side is ongoing. We are clarifying which goods arriving in Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK would need to be checked and where, when and by whom these checks could be performed’.

The 67-year-old said talks were in the ‘home straight’, although two key issues remained unresolved ahead of October’s deadlines – one being the problem surrounding the Irish border.

Barnier said that an Irish ‘backstop’ must be legally operationally and respect the UK’s constitutional integrity.

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A picture of Theresa May TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS

Brexit: Theresa May begins critical 48 hours with plea to EU leaders (The Times)

September 19 2018

Theresa May will appeal to other EU leaders today to ditch “unacceptable demands”, including keeping Northern Ireland in the single market as the price of a Brexit trade deal.

The prime minister is said to regard the next 48 hours as critical in persuading EU leaders to overrule the European Commission on the key issue of the Irish border.

Mrs May will call on them to “evolve” their negotiations over a dinner in Salzburg today. She is expected to agree with Donald Tusk, the European Council president, that goodwill will be needed to avoid a disorderly Brexit.

Her key message will be that London could never accept a “backstop” that resulted in Northern Ireland having different customs arrangements to the rest of the UK.

The UK is not seeking to enjoy all the rights of EU membership without any of the obligations, Mrs May will say, an outcome she acknowledges would also be unacceptable. “What we are proposing is a fair arrangement that will work for the EU’s economy as well as for the UK’s without undermining the single market,” she is expected to say. “This would be balanced by a strong security relationship to keep all our citizens safe from threats at home and abroad.”

Mr Tusk will appeal to other leaders to “take into account” the deep Tory divisions over Mrs May’s Chequers compromise that seeks to avoid a hard border in Ireland by committing Britain to remain aligned to EU rules. Speaking before the informal summit in Austria, Mr Tusk urged leaders to “act responsibly” to “avoid a catastrophe” in the shape of a no-deal Brexit.

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Theresa May (pictured in Downing Street) meets EU leaders in Salzburg tomorrow in the first of a series of choreographed moments on the final road to Brexit

Countdown to Brexit: The key milestones on the road to exit day (The Daily Mail)

Salzburg Summit, September 19-20

In a crucial moment tomorrow, the Prime Minister will address EU leaders on her Chequers proposals for the first time.

She will set out why the proposals are the only ‘credible and negotiable’ plan that both honours the referendum vote and – in her view – works for the EU.

The response of EU leaders will be crucial. Most have been cool on the ideas so far but expectation is rising they could give EU Negotiator Michel Barnier new guidelines within which to strike a deal.

EU Council President Donald Tusk has said the meeting must reach a ‘common view’ on the shape of the future UK-EU relationship and agree the final phase of talks.

Failure would dramatically raise the chance of no deal.


Next round of negotiations, September 21 to mid-October

The following month of detailed talks will be among the most crucial so far.

If the Salzburg summit sees EU leaders agree a broad framework as planned, the UK and EU negotiators will have just weeks to frame a ‘political declaration’ on the future relationship and finalise the withdrawal treaty.

How far they get in drafting the documents – and how much is left to EU leaders themselves – will determine when, if at all, an agreement can be struck.

The political declaration will explain in non-legal language what the two sides plans to agree in the final treaty.

A political declaration was used in December 2017 to outline the proposed transition deal and the £39billion divorce bill agreed by the UK. This is what is currently being turned into legal language for the withdrawal treaty.


EU Summit, Brussels, October 18-19

October’s EU summit has long been pencilled in as the opportunity for EU leaders to agree the withdrawal treaty on the terms of exit and a political declaration on the future relationship between the UK and EU.

If a deal can be struck in October, it leaves plenty of time for it to be agreed in the UK and ratified in the EU, paving the way for an orderly Brexit in March.

A deal is not expected to be finalised at this summit but both sides will hope for significant progress – even if the summit is used to set out the dividing lines one last time.


Emergency EU Summit, Brussels, November 13

A one-day emergency summit in November is now widely expected. If it happens, there will be acute political pressure to finalise both the withdrawal treaty and political declaration – if nothing else to allow the EU to return to other business.

Expect a high stakes meeting and a late night finish. Failure will see both sides walking up to the brink of a chaotic exit and peering over the edge.


EU Summit, Brussels, December 13-14

Given the need to ratify the deal, the December summit is the last chance to strike a deal. Brexit is not supposed to be on the agenda: if the talks reach this summit there has been a major breakdown.

The EU does infamously find a way to agreement at the 11th hour and if Brexit talks are still live in December, many will hope for a fudge that can get both sides over the line.

Last year, talks on the outline divorce deal were pushed to December and a deal was – just – reached.


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Theresa May and her husband Philip May arriving at church in Sonning yesterday PETER NICHOLLS/REUTERS

Boost for May as EU backs Irish border plan (The Times)

High-tech solution raises chances of a deal.

The European Union is secretly preparing to accept a frictionless Irish border after Brexit in a move that raises the prospect of Theresa May striking a deal by the end of the year.

In a concession to British concerns, EU negotiators want to use technological solutions to minimise customs checks between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Under the EU plan, goods could be tracked using barcodes on shipping containers under “trusted-trader” schemes administered by registered companies. This would remove the need for new border infrastructure.

A sticking point in the talks to date has been how to avoid the return of a “hard” border in Northern Ireland with new checks or controls amid fears that it could lead to renewed conflict.

The government has refused to accept the EU’s initial proposal that there would, in effect, have to be a border in the Irish Sea, with checks on goods before they left mainland Britain.

The Brussels plan, called the “backstop”, caused outrage among Conservatives and their parliamentary allies, the Democratic Unionist Party, by creating a different constitutional and territorial status for Northern Ireland.

In a development that could help the prime minister to sell her Brexit plans to a sceptical party, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, is working on a new “protocol” text outlining a plan to use technology to minimise checks. The proposals are to be circulated to European governments after the Conservative Party conference on October 3.

It is hoped that the draft will help Mrs May to survive long enough to reach an agreement with Brussels this winter. The new protocol will go far further than before in accepting the argument of the British government and many Brexiteers that technology can solve the riddle of how to avoid checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

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Dominic Raab and Michel Barnier EMMANUEL DUNAND

Brexit: EU squashes hopes of Ireland breakthrough in Salzburg (The Times)

EU leaders are expected to offer Theresa May little more than kind words at a summit in the Austrian city of Salzburg on Wednesday, damping hopes of a Brexit breakthrough, despite a looming autumn deadline for agreement on a deal.

The Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, said on Friday that EU and UK talks were “closing in on workable solutions to the outstanding issues”, and Michel Barnier, the Brussels negotiator, has said a deal is possible within six to eight weeks.

In reality the talks have made no progress on the most difficult issue — the Northern Ireland “backstop” — in months. EU diplomats said hopes of a breakthrough had been put on ice until after the Tory party conference at the end of this month.

EU diplomats are now so wary about any initiative they propose being twisted and used against May by hardline Brexit MPs that they have decided to hold off on new proposals until she gets through the conference.

Last week rumours swirled in Brussels that EU leaders would agree new instructions for Barnier at the Salzburg summit, leaning on him to push more earnestly for a deal. But within days officials had scotched any hopes of a new mandate.

“This expectation is totally wrong,” said an EU diplomat.

Salzburg, once seen as a possible turning point in the talks, has been reduced to a mere stock-taking exercise. “The less that comes out of this summit, the better for everyone,” said a diplomat.

Instead, tough decisions on the Northern Ireland border have been put off until next month or a possible emergency leaders’ summit in November, bringing the negotiators dangerously close to a hard deadline on a withdrawal agreement.

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From passports to car parts, the official no-deal scenario (The Times)

Civil service plans for a hard Brexit reveal the profound impact it will have on all our lives, write Oliver Wright and Henry Zeffman

In dry, impenetrable Whitehallese language the civil service today lays out the implications of a no-deal Brexit on individuals, businesses and government.

Despite their neutral tone, the two dozen or so “no-deal planning notices” do not mask the profound effect such a scenario would have on everyone living in Britain — and arguably the continent as well.

From selling a car, to getting on a plane to Paris, to buying or selling any kind of good or service, life will not be the same in a very profound way.

Anyone wanting to travel into the European Union must have six months left before their passport expires or risk being turned back at the border. In addition the amount of time that British citizens will be allowed to stay in an EU country will be limited to three months.

Currently UK driving licences are valid in the EU. In a no-deal scenario, they would no longer be valid in themselves. Instead, Britons could need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP), which is an additional document. Depending on the country, Britons who move to the continent for a prolonged period might be required to take a new driving test there.

Mobile roaming
Surcharge-free roaming will no longer be guaranteed in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This might affect the amount of calls that you can make, texts you can send and data you can consume, including applying limits that are less than the amount available in your bundle when you are in the UK. The government is proposing to cap any data charges at £45 a month.

HMRC has written to 145,000 companies that export to the EU but not to the rest of the world. The letter warns them that they will have to comply with all new excise, VAT and customs procedures after Brexit and advises them to “contact customs agents, freight forwarders and other businesses” who have “services to help you to follow customs rules”.

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Picture of Michel Barnier

Brexit deal possible in two months, says Michel Barnier (The Times)

September 11 2018

May orders ministers to win over Tory sceptics

A Brexit deal with Brussels can be struck in less than two months’ time, Europe’s chief negotiator said yesterday, as Theresa May sent her ministers on a final drive to sell Chequers to her divided party.

Amid signs of some optimism on both sides of the Channel, Michel Barnier said that a withdrawal deal was “possible” within six to eight weeks, causing a surge in the pound’s value.

With claims yesterday, however, that up to 80 Tory MPs would be prepared to vote down a deal based on the Chequers agreement, Downing Street is to begin a concerted drive to reduce opposition.

The prime minister has instructed every cabinet minister to tour the country before the Conservative Party conference this month to hammer home the message that Chequers is the “only deal” on the table.

Each minister has been told to visit at least two constituency associations in the next two weeks to make the case for Mrs May’s strategy and counter the campaign led by Boris Johnson to “chuck Chequers”.

Privately, Tory aides working across Whitehall have been briefed by No 10 that Mr Barnier’s position on Chequers has shifted in recent weeks. They have been told to prepare for a vote on a final deal by Christmas, with senior government figures reporting that Tory whips were “very confident” that the vote would pass. However, with Mrs May’s majority standing at 13 and Labour expected to oppose the deal, Brexiteers could scupper the plans.

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ECB president Mario Draghi GETTY IMAGES

ECB piles pressure on City banks over Brexit (The Times)

European Central Bank orders City to disclose plans to move staff abroad

The European Central Bank has ordered financial institutions to reveal details of their plans to shift staff to the Continent after Brexit, ramping up pressure on banks and brokers to explain how they will operate once Britain leaves the bloc.

In a hardening of its stance on multi-national banks with a big presence in the City of London, the ECB has stepped up warnings that a “brass plate” presence in the EU — where business is routed through a member state but senior managers remain in London — will be insufficient for serving continental customers. After Brexit, London-based banks will lose so-called “passporting” rights, which grant access to the EU.

International lenders with a London hub were given a deadline of the end of June to apply for an EU banking licence, with 20 submitting an application. The ECB is said to be using the application process to demand further details on banks’ Brexit plans.

An investment banking source said this included planning for potential failures, how units on the mainland will be capitalised and the number of employees who will be required to move.

The number of bankers leaving the City in the wake of the Brexit vote has so far been lower than some predicted. However, the ECB’s demands for information reflect concerns over the potential for the UK to crash out of the EU without a deal next March. Such an outcome would be likely to accelerate the pace of City job losses. While the bigger investment banks have already made plans for this, it is believed the ECB is particularly targeting smaller banks and broker-dealers, which may have less developed plans.

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EU Flag

EU’s Barnier Puts Positive Spin on Theresa May’s Brexit Plan (Bloomberg)

By Ian Wishart, Tim Ross, and Robert Hutton
September 7, 2018, 2:29 PM GMT+3 Updated on September 7, 2018, 7:08 PM GMT+3

EU chief negotiator says “lots” of White Paper is useful. Barnier’s words add to evidence EU focused on getting deal.

European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier said “lots” of the U.K.’s blueprint for post-Brexit relations are “useful” and that he’s open to new ideas to fix the Irish border problem. His positive spin on the divorce talks boosted the pound.

“In the White Paper there are lots of positive things, lots of useful things, just to make that absolutely clear,” Barnier told a delegation of U.K. lawmakers on Monday, according to an official transcript. “I did not just reject the White Paper outright; that is just not true.”

Barnier also told Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz that 90 percent of the divorce agreement is complete, according to a government official speaking on condition of anonymity. Brexit is being done in two parts: first the divorce deal, which needs to be settled in the next few months to ensure an orderly exit. Alongside that, the two sides will agree to an outline of what their future relationship should look like. Once the U.K. has left, that agreement will be fleshed out into a detailed trade deal.

The EU negotiator also reiterated that he is open to alternative suggestions for keeping the Irish border open after the split. That’s a major hurdle that needs to be overcome before a divorce agreement can be reached. Still, he went on to say there were “major problems” with the U.K.’s vision for a future customs arrangement and its plan to pick and choose parts of the bloc’s single market.

Barnier’s comments add to evidence that the two sides are working on getting a divorce deal secured, and could be willing to postpone some of the more difficult decisions about what the future relationship should look like until after exit day.

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EU Flag

Brexit Bulletin: The Path to a Deal (Bloomberg)

By Emma Ross-Thomas
September 6, 2018, 9:30 AM GMT+3

Some of the hurdles to a deal with Brussels are starting to fall. What happens when Prime Minister Theresa May brings the deal back to Parliament is becoming the bigger question.

The path to a deal with Brussels is starting to emerge. And as many Brexit-watchers have long predicted, it involves postponing some of the toughest decisions until after exit day.

Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that Germany has dropped a demand that the future relationship should be set out in detail alongside the separation. The U.K. is also now willing to settle for less detail on what future ties should look like. What this means is that all the opposition to May’s vision for Brexit – the so-called Chequers plan – doesn’t necessarily stand in the way of getting a divorce deal. Chequers is all about the future, and the two sides are now focused on just getting their split over the line.

Remember that Brexit is in two parts: first the separation agreement to ensure an orderly exit and to secure the transition period that companies desperately want. What follows is the future trade accord, which won’t be negotiated until after the U.K. leaves. The divorce agreement will be accompanied by a political statement on expectations for the future relationship. This document was once expected to run to 100 pages, but some officials now see something just a 10th of that size. European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier has long said that Britain still has wiggle room on its future relationship even after the country has left – as long as the changes come before the end of the transition period.

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The border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Photograph: Matthias Graben/REX/Shutterstock

EU27 to offer May a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to Brexit (The Guardian)

Leaders to offer May warm words on Chequers plan but demand Irish border solution

The EU27 are planning a “carrot and stick” approach to Brexit at an upcoming summit, offering Theresa May warm words on the Chequers plans to take to the Conservative conference alongside a sharp warning that they need a plan for Northern Ireland within weeks.

The twin statements from the EU leaders at the meeting in Salzburg later this month would seek to give the British prime minister some evidence of progress in negotiations on the future trade deal as she seeks to fight off the threat of rebelling MPs.

However, under the plans being discussed among the 27, a shot would be fired across May’s bows on the issue of a backstop for Northern Ireland, an issue on which officials and diplomats are becoming increasingly frustrated.

May committed in December, and again in March, to agree on a plan for avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. This would come into force if a trade deal or bespoke technological solution that could do the same job was not available by the end of the transition period, on 31 December 2020.

The EU27 fear the British are seeking to push back the resolution of this issue into the transition period, after the UK has left the EU on 29 March 2019.

Tempers have flared in recent negotiations over the issue and member states want to send a clear warning that they are not willing to let the issue remain unresolved.

One EU diplomat said: “The first part will say that the Chequers proposals were welcomed and that we are talking about the future: an unprecedented deal which will be our best effort at an internal market in goods.

“That is all true and it is something for her [May] to have at conference, that she needs. The second statement will be a very stern warning. It is clear that the British game plan is to push this back, but they need to step on it now, and stop playing around.”

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Scottish and EU flags (Getty)

Brexit putting the union at risk, new poll reveals (The Independent)

Almost half of Scottish voters want independence if the UK leaves the EU next year.

Brexit is damaging support for the British union in both Scotland and Northern Ireland, a new poll has revealed.

Almost half of Scottish voters – 47 percent – said they would now vote for independence if the UK leaves the European Union. Only 43 percent said they would vote for Scotland to remain part of Britain after Brexit.

The latest Deltapoll findings also showed that Brexit is also harming support for the union in Northern Ireland.

A majority of voters in the country- 52 percent – would back a united Ireland outside of the UK if Brexit goes ahead. Only 39 percent would vote to remain part of UK.

The same survey, commissioned by the Best for Britain and Our Future Our Choice campaign groups, pointed to even stronger opposition to the creation of a so-called “hard border” across Ireland after Brexit.

It found 56 percent of people in Northern Ireland would be willing to vote for a united Ireland if the UK left the EU and a hard border were set up.

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Getty Images

Pressure grows on Labour to back a referendum on a Brexit deal (The Economist)

As polls shift towards Remain, campaigners urge Jeremy Corbyn to change his line.

EVEN as Brexit negotiations are being speeded up, talk of missed deadlines and a possible no-deal outcome seems to grow. That strengthens the groups such as People’s Vote and Best for Britain that are campaigning for a referendum on any Brexit deal, with an option to remain in the European Union instead. Polls on whether people want another vote are inconclusive and often heavily dependent on the question’s wording. But if Parliament cannot agree to a deal and the alternative becomes to leave without one, most voters seem to prefer a new referendum.

Campaigners are focusing their efforts on Labour and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn. He is a long-standing Eurosceptic. Labour’s position is to respect the result of the 2016 referendum but demand a Brexit that passes six tests, notably to protect jobs and the economy. On this basis it seems sure to oppose any deal that Theresa May brings back from Brussels. If Parliament defeats this, Mr Corbyn wants a general election, not another referendum. The party worries that supporting another referendum might cost it Leave voters, by seeming to align too closely with a Remain-backing establishment. Complicating its position are fears that the real ambition of anti-Brexit (and anti-Corbyn) Labour MPs now is to start a new centrist party.

Yet some senior Labour figures are more equivocal. Both John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, and Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, have been careful not to rule out a referendum in any circumstances. A parliamentary rejection of a deal may not trigger an election, and an election might not change the dynamics of Brexit. Hence the case for another vote, which is now endorsed by many of Labour’s leading trade-union backers. Several unions support moves to persuade the Labour conference in late September to call for a new referendum.

One reason for this is the perception that public opinion is shifting. Recent surveys by YouGov, a pollster, seem to support this. Peter Kellner, a former president of YouGov, concludes from the latest evidence that what was a 52-48% Leave majority in June 2016 has switched to a 53-47% Remain one. He says the shift against Brexit is most marked in Labour seats, especially in the north, which voted strongly for Leave. This has led some campaigners to argue that Mr Corbyn’s fuzzy position on Brexit could deprive him of as many as 4m new votes. Labour insiders dismiss such claims. Brexit is widely identified with the Tories in any event. And they think any shift in public opinion is too small to justify a stronger pro-Remain position.

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Michel Barnier met Dominic Raab, the UK Brexit secretary, in Brussels EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

‘No backstop, no agreement’: border still divides Brexit negotiators (The Times)

The Irish border question could still scupper a Brexit deal, the EU’s chief negotiator warned after talks with his British counterpart yesterday.

Michel Barnier said that urgent work was needed to find a solution following a meeting with Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, in Brussels. He said the UK had to provide data on the nature, location and methods of checks that would be needed on the border after Brexit.

Referring to the UK’s commitment to ensure a frictionless Irish border after Brexit, Mr Barnier said: “This backstop is critical to conclude these negotiations because without a backstop there is no agreement.” The terms of Britain’s divorce from the European Union, set for March 29 next year, must be forged in principle by November at the latest, Mr Barnier said. He said it was possible to get an agreement in time for a meeting of all the EU leaders in Brussels on October 18-19.

Mr Raab said he was “stubbornly optimistic” that a deal could be reached. Simon Coveney, the tánaiste and foreign minister, tweeted in response: “So am I.”

Mr Raab said: “All in all I think the contours of an agreement and a deal on the withdrawal agreement are becoming clearer and clearer, which is a positive.

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“Brexit XXL” is a political novel on a hard Brexit scenario. Visit

Michel Barnier said the deal may include an “ambitious free trade agreement” along with cooperation in other areas MICHAEL SOHN/AP

Pound rallies as Barnier hints at relationship spéciale after Brexit (The Times)

The pound rose to a three-week high yesterday after Michel Barnier said the European Union was prepared to offer Britain a unique partnership as Brexit negotiations enter the final phase.

The EU’s lead negotiator made the pledge after holding talks with Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, in Berlin before more talks in Brussels tomorrow. Mr Barnier said that the bloc was preparing this autumn to sign a political declaration setting out a future relationship with Britain that would be “as close as possible”. He added: “We are ready to propose a partnership like we have never had before with any third country.”

After his comments, the pound climbed to its highest level against the US dollar since August 3, climbing to $1.3014. Sterling jumped more than 1 per cent, its biggest daily rise in two months. Against the euro, it rose 1 per cent, to €1.118.

“People are viewing this as a sign that there’s going to be some sort of close-ish co-operation between the European Union and the UK after the UK leaves, but this is a turning point,” David Madden, an analyst at CMC Markets, said.

Manuel Oliveri, a foreign exchange strategist at Credit Agricole SA, described the comments as “the best he’s ever said, even though it’s early days”. “[The rally] could easily go further as the market was very much becoming aligned with a no-deal Brexit,” he said.

The optimistic tone was echoed by Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, before a five-hour negotiating session he is due to have with Mr Barnier in Brussels tomorrow. “I’m confident that a deal is within our sights,” he told the Lords EU committee. “We’re bringing ambition, pragmatism, energy and, if it is matched, we get a deal.”

However, Mr Barnier repeated his warning, a veiled criticism of the government’s Chequers white paper, that Britain would not be able to pick which bits of the single market it wanted to take part in. “We respect Britain’s red lines scrupulously. In return, they must respect what we are,” he said. “Single market means single market . There is no single market à la carte.”

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President Macron appears to be softening his opposition to Theresa May’s Brexit plan LISELOTTE SABRO/RITZAU SCANPIX

Emmanuel Macron tells EU leaders to make a deal with Britain (The Times)

Brexit boost as French president calls for alliance

President Macron is preparing to throw Theresa May a lifeline by pushing other EU leaders to agree a close relationship with Britain after Brexit as part of his vision for a united Europe.

The French leader wants to use a summit in Austria next month to spell out a new structure for European alliances. It would be based on “concentric circles”, with the EU and the euro at its core and Britain in a second ring, diplomatic sources have told The Times.

That would depend on an amicable Brexit, however. Mr Macron’s decision to promote his vision at Salzburg suggests he is softening opposition to the prime minister’s Chequers proposals.

The sense of optimism was boosted yesterday when Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, offered Britain an unprecedented trade deal that would keep ties “as close as possible”. His comments sent sterling to a three-week high against the dollar.

On Monday Mr Macron said that any Brexit deal should not threaten the EU’s integrity. However, diplomats said yesterday that he was concerned a “no deal” departure would shatter European ties just as they were needed most.

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