Brexit breakthrough: Britain to get unique trade deal

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May returns to Downing Street from the Houses of Parliament in London. Reuters  File

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May returns to Downing Street from the Houses of Parliament in London. Reuters File

Speaking in Berlin, Barnier told reporters: "We are prepared to offer Britain a partnership such as there never has been with any other third country. My focus as I hope you will see is that overridingly on intensifying the negotiations because we want a strong deal, because we want a good outcome.So really with the no deal scenario as hard as it is to anticipate what precisely could be the trigger for it there's a range of possibilities and we'll be ready for all of them".

"Backstop" guarantees on the future of the Irish border, as well as the UK's status in the European single market, remain challenging sticking points for negotiators.

But he warned that any agreement had to respect "the four pillars" of the EU's cherished single market - the free movement of people, goods, services and capital.

His remarks, after a meeting with German foreign minister Heiko Maas in Berlin, were seen at Westminster as a glimmer of movement by European Union negotiators after months of stonewalling.

"I think it's absolutely that the government is preparing for no deal because we don't know what the outcome is going to be", she said.

"He has said about the no-deal situation that it will not be a walk in the park, but it wouldn't be the end of the world", insisted the Prime Minister.

Tory MP Nigel Evans said: "It sounds like Mr Barnier is waking up at last - but still needs to smell the coffee".

"We need to see the details. If this is a step towards a good bespoke deal that recognised all our red lines, this is a welcome boost".

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The announcement comes after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe called a special meeting of ministers to prepare for what he called "this unprecedented challenge" - although both France and the United Kingdom (and EU) say they are still aiming for an "orderly" Brexit with a deal.

He told the Lords EU Committee: "I'm confident that a deal is within our sights".

He said: "We are bringing the ambition and substance of our white paper on our future relationship, and also some pragmatism to go the extra mile to get the deal that I think is in both sides interests".

"If we left with no deal, then not only would there be a question around quite what the shape of those financial obligations were as a matter of strict law, but secondly on the timing".

Stressing the historic ties between France and the UK, Mr Lidington said the countries must also pull together "because the foundations of the world order that we forged in the aftermath of war are creaking".

But despite the warmer rhetoric coming from the EU's side, Theresa May's effective deputy, Cabinet Minister David Lidington warned the choice was either accepting the Chequer's deal or no deal at all.

Shuffling from side to side ( as some suggested - "doing the Maybot" ) drew attention away from her awkward two-step with the reality of what is negotiable with the European Union and the extremists within her party now actually celebrating the possibility of leaving the EU with no deal negotiated to replace our complex trading relationship with Europe.

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