EU is 'LAUGHING in Geoffrey Cox's face' in Brexit negotiations claims Iain Duncan-Smith

The Conservative MP said Mr Cox was sent to negotiate the backstop – an agreement that would prevent a hard border in Ireland – without any leverage. He wrote for the Mail on Sunday: “Instead of approaching these long-running talks with Europe as a true negotiation based on ambitious hopes for Brexit, they have treated them as an exercise in damage limitation.  “This, in turn, has led the Government to sign up to a withdrawal deal that leaves us – as rule takers – £39billion worse off, with Northern Ireland locked into the EU.

“And now, to make matters still worse, there has been a damaging revolt by three Remainer Cabinet Ministers – Amber Rudd, Greg Clark and David Gauke.”

Mr Smith said because the Cabinet broke down on taking collective responsibility on the position that a no deal Brexit is better than a bad deal, it has given Brussels the power to undermine the UK’s negotiating position.

He adds: “Small wonder that when even a lawyer of the standing of Geoffrey Cox QC seeks the most reasonable and limited reassurances, the EU simply laughs in his face. 

“The European negotiators are only too well aware that Britain’s position was dramatically weakened by the activities of these Ministers.”

Brussels rejected Mr Cox’s proposals for a simple but legally binding guarantee that the backstop would not lock Britain into the EU’s rules forever. 

Mr Smith explained that unless there is guarantee to give the UK an out it is an trap Britain may never escape.

On Friday, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said he offered Britain a unilateral exit from the Irish backstop.

Mr Barnier said the UK Government was offered an opportunity to partially quit the mechanism to avoid a hard border on Ireland.

The French eurocrat told EU27 ambassadors at a secret meeting in Brussels Mr Cox was offered a fresh compromise in a bid to save Theresa May’s doomed Brexit deal.

However, it was made clear by Mr Cox and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay that Brussels’ offer was unacceptable.

Mr Barnier told the meeting he offered Britain the chance of a “unilateral exit clause from Single Customs Territory while maintaining the other elements of the backstop”.

This proposal gives Britain the chance to leave the full UK-wide customs union element of the Irish backstop and return to the Northern Ireland-only arrangement.

This idea was previously ditched in November.

The backstop solution aims to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

It has a been a thorn in the side of negotiators and lawmakers because it could lead to customs checks within the UK – something No 10 is striving to avoid.

Parliament is set to vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal for a second time on Tuesday.

If it fails again, the PM has said MPs will vote on Wednesday or Thursday on whether they want to leave the EU without a deal or to ask for an extension of article 50.


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