Brussels has insisted there are “positive elements” to the Chequers Brexit plan following claims the EU’s chief negotiator said Theresa May’s proposals were “dead”.
The European Commission said Michel Barnier had been clear in setting out the EU’s views on Chequers and the need for further talks on the areas that “still create problems”.
The EU’s chief negotiator and Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab were meeting in Brussels on Thursday just a day after the Cabinet minister was told that Mr Barnier had declared the plan to be “dead in the water” during a meeting with MPs.
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 in another Commons committee with Mr Raab, Mr Kinnock 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.”
The Labour MP said Frenchman Mr Barnier told the MPs “les propositions sont mortes” – the proposals are dead.
Asked about the comments, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas urged people to wait for the official transcript of Monday’s behind-closed-doors meeting between Mr Barnier and the Commons Brexit Committee.
“Michel Barnier was very clear expressing the commission position on Chequers from the very first moment,” he said.
“I don’t think that people present in the room and beyond the room have any doubt on what we said on Chequers – we identified where there were positive elements and we discussed also the possibility for further discussions to address issues that still create problems.”
He added that the private meeting provided “the perfect recipe for everybody coming out of there and saying what one or the other understood Michel saying”.
He added: “Let’s wait for the transcript and then let’s check the sort of things that are reported of what Michel Barnier said against what he actually really said.”
Mr Barnier said Thursday’s meeting with Mr Raab 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”.
Meanwhile, further details emerged about the Government’s contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit – codenamed Operation Yellowhammer.
An official document photographed in Westminster appeared to show the Treasury’s position on Yellowhammer and indicated that Whitehall’s Civil Contingencies Secretariat was co-ordinating action.
The Treasury document suggested that ministries should focus on “internal reprioritisation” to fund no-deal costs, although Government sources stressed that money set aside for Brexit pressures was available.
In a further indication of no-deal preparations, Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted that the supply of medicines would be “unhindered” but drugs with a short shelf life may have to be flown into the UK to avoid delays.