Raab to meet Barnier after claim EU negotiator told MPs Chequers plan was ‘dead’

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Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab will have an opportunity to ask EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier why he described Theresa May’s proposals for a future trade deal as “dead” when the men meet later.

Thursday’s discussion in Brussels comes the day after Mr Raab was told of Mr Barnier’s withering assessment of the Chequers blueprint as the minister faced a grilling over the Government’s EU withdrawal strategy.

The EU negotiator held talks with the Brexit select committee on Monday to discuss progress in the negotiations, making it “crystal clear” the Chequers plan was unacceptable, according to Labour’s Stephen Kinnock.

During exchanges with Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, the anti-Brexit campaigner insisted Brussels had spiked the plans.

Mr Kinnock said: “I can tell you absolutely, unequivocally, without a shadow of a doubt that Chequers is dead in the water.

“Mr Barnier made it crystal clear that Chequers is completely unacceptable to the European Union.”

In Wednesday’s committee session in Parliament, former Brexit minister David Jones quizzed Mr Raab on why he was “flogging this dead horse?”, in reference to the Chequers blueprint.

The Tory MP asked: “You admitted that your focus is on trying to deliver an agreement along the lines of Chequers.

“We know from Mr Kinnock that Mr Barnier thinks that Chequers is ‘mort dans l’eau’.

“We know that several members of the Conservative Party, the Parliamentary Conservative Party – from both Remain and Leave tendencies – think that Chequers is dead in the water.

“Why are you flogging this dead horse?”

Mr Raab replied: “This is a negotiation with the EU so you are going to hear noises from various sides that are critical.

“That is an inherent part of a sensitive, contentious negotiation like this, but you should be in no doubt that we are making good progress.”

During the session of the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, Mrs May’s Europe adviser rejected suggestions he should tell the Prime Minister to put the Chequers plan “out of its misery”.

Olly Robbins said the proposals were a “credible, sensible” offer.

Mr Barnier said Thursday’s meeting would see the pair continue work to find “common ground” between the European Council’s guidelines and the Chequers plan with a view to creating a “new, ambitious partnership”.

Mrs May, meanwhile, directly challenged Jeremy Corbyn to rule out a second referendum on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, but the Labour leader sidestepped the calls.

The pair clashed at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons shortly after the UK’s Brexit preparations were branded “incompetent” by former Bank of England governor Mervyn King.

In a damning assessment, Lord King told the BBC the Government had been left without a credible bargaining position.

He said it “beggars belief” that Britain, one of the world’s leading economies, had found itself in a situation where the country was being told to take a course of action or face catastrophe.

He suggested blame should be shared by the Government, Parliament as a whole and those in Whitehall who were tasked with making key decisions.

Labour has so far declined to take off the table the option of a vote on the final Brexit deal, and Mr Corbyn is coming under intense pressure from People’s Vote campaigners to commit to a second referendum.

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