Raab: Good Brexit deal ‘within our sights’

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A good deal with the EU is “within our sights”, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has claimed.

Mr Raab confirmed that a first batch of 25 technical papers on no-deal Brexit preparations would be published on Thursday.

Responding to accusations from Labour shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer that publication of the papers was a sign of “panic” at failing negotiations, Mr Raab said: “I’m still confident a good deal is within our sights.

“We have got agreement on about 80% of the issues.

“We have made clear that if negotiations don’t achieve the optimum outcome we will continue to be a responsible European neighbour and partner.”

A stockpile of 200 medicines already exists, Mr Raab said, thanks to longstanding arrangements with pharmaceutical companies to deal with disruptions at the border, such as strikes by French lorry drivers.

Speaking on on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he said: “There are potential issues around the border in the worst case scenario.

“So it’s right, too, we will be working with industry around stockpiling of medicines for a working assumption of six weeks.”

But talks remain deadlocked over the Northern Irish border, with Mr Raab continuing to press for a bespoke customs agreement on goods and services.

“They’re still asking questions and probing the proposals, but that’s good,” he said.

“They are not knocking them away in principle – they are asking questions on the practical detail.

“They understand very clearly that we will not allow a customs border or any other form of border to be drawn down the Irish Sea.”

However, Mr Starmer said the release of Brexit technical papers signalled a no-deal Brexit was becoming more likely.

“I think it actually reflects that these negotiations are going badly and the Government is moving into panic mode.

“No-deal has never been a viable option. It has never been credible and I don’t think the Prime Minister thinks it is a viable option.

“Dressing up the severe consequences as if that could be accepted or that could somehow be smoothed, is not to reassure anybody.”

A second referendum should be “on the table” Mr Starmer insisted, dismissing claims a second referendum would cause “civil disobedience” made by Labour colleague Barry Gardiner earlier this week.

He said: “It’s not right to say ‘vote for my deal or get no deal’. That’s not a meaningful vote.

“If that vote is to reject the Article 50 deal then Parliament must decide what happens next and all options should be on the table.

“I have said that consistently, John McDonell has said that – that’s what the Labour position is.”

Arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg told Today a no-deal Brexit on World Trade Organisation rules “would suffice” and said the risks had been “absurdly overstated”.

And arch-Remainer Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable, who is campaigning for another referendum, said the technical papers would show a no-deal would be “catastrophic”.

He said: “We are going to discover today what these ‘absurd’ risks, as Jacob Rees-Mogg calls them, really are.

“The potential damage could blight us for a generation.”

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