Talks continue in Brussels in effort to avoid ‘no-deal’ Brexit

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Brexit talks will continue in Brussels as efforts continue to find a UK-EU deal.

The latest round of talks will continue on Thursday when Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab holds another meeting with Michel Barnier.

The meetings come after Theresa May confirmed she had taken personal charge of the negotiations, with Mr Raab “deputising” for her in Brussels.

Tory Eurosceptics have voiced concerns that Mr Raab’s department has been sidelined by Number 10 and Mrs May’s Europe Adviser Olly Robbins.

The risks of not reaching a Brexit deal were underlined by Cabinet ministers on Tuesday.

Part of the Government’s planning for a “no-deal Brexit” involves securing supplies of food and medicines.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs he had asked officials to “work up options for stockpiling” by the pharmaceutical industry, while Mr Raab said the Government would also take steps to ensure an “adequate food supply”.

Sarah Wollaston, chairwoman of the Commons Health Select Committee, called for more clarity about the Government’s plans.

The pro-EU Tory said: “We have been calling for some time for the Government to set out the full consequences of no deal.”

She told BBC’s Newsnight: “It’s not just about stockpiling here, there are some products that can’t be stockpiled.

“Around 700,000 diagnostic tests every year in the NHS require medical radioisotopes but these have very short shelf-lives, they can’t be stockpiled and they aren’t manufactured here.”

In Brussels, officials will discuss the future relationship, the Ireland-Northern Ireland situation and the remaining issues in the withdrawal agreement.

Mr Raab told MPs he would be “going out to Brussels on Thursday striving very hard with our team to get the very best deal”.

But he insisted the UK would not “cower” in talks with Brussels.

“What I’m not going to do is wallow in pessimism about the state of this country in relation to Brexit and we are going to go into these negotiations with economic confidence and political ambition,” he told the Exiting the EU Select Committee.

Two former Northern Ireland secretaries, Owen Paterson and Theresa Villiers, wrote in the Daily Telegraph that technological solutions can be made to work to keep the Irish border soft, “if only they are not delayed by political squabbles”.

They wrote: “The Commission has made a major error in only taking advice on Irish matters from Dublin.

“It must seek to learn from voices in Northern Ireland. It must listen to senior figures, including the architect of the Belfast Agreement, David Trimble.

“A sensible technological solution is in the best interests of the whole British Isles.”

Meanwhile, efforts to repair the European Union’s relationship with the White House will see Jean-Claude Juncker meet Donald Trump in Washington for talks on the trade dispute between the US and its allies.

Ahead of the meeting, the US president tweeted to suggest abolishing tariffs between the US and EU only hours after another tweet in which he declared “tariffs are the greatest!”

He wrote: “The European Union is coming to Washington tomorrow to negotiate a deal on Trade. I have an idea for them.

“Both the U.S. and the E.U. drop all Tariffs, Barriers and Subsidies! That would finally be called Free Market and Fair Trade! Hope they do it, we are ready – but they won’t!”

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