Raab indicates he expects Brexit deal by November 21st

Discussions to resume in earnest next week in an effort to find a breakthrough  

October 31st, 2018: Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney says a deal on Britain's withdrawal from the European Union is possible by November 21st, but it will require British negotiators in particular to step up efforts. Video: Reuters

 

Britain and the European Union could conclude a deal within the next three weeks, Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has told a parliamentary committee at Westminster.

Responding to a request from Labour’s Hilary Benn to give evidence to the Brexit committee, Mr Raab said in a letter dated October 24th that he would do so after a deal is agreed.

“I would be happy to give evidence to the committee when a deal is finalised, and currently expect 21 November to be suitable,” he wrote.

Downing Street said Mr Raab’s letter did not suggest there had been a breakthrough in the negotiations, which are expected to resume in earnest next week. 

The Brexit secretary and Tánaiste Simon Coveney met over dinner at the Irish embassy in London on Tuesday evening for what sources described as a frank, 90-minute discussion. The two men discussed the impasse in negotiations over the Northern Ireland backstop and a source said that Mr Coveney told Mr Raab that Britain should not “mistake Irish patience for a change in position” on the issue.

The Tánaiste had breakfast on Wednesday with foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, who told the House of Commons foreign affairs committee later that he had introduced Mr Coveney to two of his three children.

“I mention that because I think the Irish are family, I really do. And that relationship is incredibly important,” he said.

“I think that, when it comes to issues of Northern Ireland, we both want exactly the same thing. So it was a very productive meeting and I’ve met him on a number of occasions now. I think this is going to be one of those times when both countries need to remember how aligned our values fundamentally are.”

Principal motion

Earlier, the Brexit committee heard that Theresa May will be able to ignore any non-statutory vote by MPs calling for a different form of Brexit or for a second referendum.

David Natzler, who as clerk of the House of Commons is its most senior official, said that if the prime minister brings a Brexit deal to parliament for approval, she is not obliged to heed votes calling for alternatives.

“The house may come out in favour of, I don’t know, of Canada plus plus, or Norway minus, and all sorts of things. Does the government then have to go and renegotiate? No. It then tries to get its principal motion through, with whatever it is proposing to the house,” he said.

Sir David said, however, that it would be politically difficult for any government to ignore a vote by a majority of MPs calling for a second referendum before approving a Brexit deal.

“If the house were to agree that there should be a referendum before X or after X, that would have no statutory effect. No referendum follows as a result. But if there is a majority of members of the House of Commons that voted for it, I think you would be very unwise to say that has no effect,” he said. 

“It would have, I assume, a considerable political effect.”