It's up to Brussels to change terms of withdrawal agreement to avoid no-deal, says Raab

It's up to Brussels to change terms of withdrawal agreement to avoid no-deal, says Raab
Copyright Reuters
By Cristina Abellan Matamoros with REUTERS
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Britain's foreign minister Dominic Raab put pressure on Brussels to change terms of UK's withdrawal agreement to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

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UK's foreign minister Dominic Raab said that if the European Union did not budge on the terms of Britain's withdrawal from the EU, it would have to take responsibility for a no-deal scenario.

Speaking to Reuters on Thursday during a visit to Mexico City, Raab said Britain wanted to leave the EU with a deal but was prepared to also leave without one if EU negotiators did not change the terms of the withdrawal agreement.

"If the position from the EU is that the withdrawal agreement can't be changed - whether it's add-ons or subtractions - full stop, which is their position today, then let's face it, they will be taking the decision to see the UK leave on no-deal terms, and that's a responsibility they will have to bear," Raab said.

The EU has said in the past it will not renegotiate the withdrawal agreement reached with Theresa May's administration. However, Boris Johnson's government wants the controversial Irish backstop scrapped.

The backstop is essentially an insurance policy to avoid a hard border — such as border posts — between Northern Ireland (part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (part of the EU), post-Brexit.

The measure has angered some hard pro-Brexit MPs who view the measure as loss of UK's sovereignty.

"The backstop, certainly in its current form, is undemocratic and it's something that will have to be removed," Raab said

The obvious alternative, Raab continued, was to move towards an "operational backstop" that ensured that "any checks that are done wouldn't be at the border" but could be managed with "technology and goodwill and operational cooperation."

Raab made very clear UK's intentions were to leave the EU with or without a deal on October 31.

"The prime minister's been very clear, we'll leave at the end of October, preferably with a deal with our EU partners," Raab said. "But in any event, if they don't move, there's no movement or flexibility from the EU side, then we'll leave on what's called WTO (World Trade Organization) terms."

Brexit has been a divisive subject for the union with polls showing there is growing support in Scotland for leaving the UK and staying a part of it.

When asked whether Scotland's departure from the UK was a price worth paying for Brexit, Raab said:

"I don't accept that analysis or those assumptions for a second. The biggest risk to the union would be to have a second (Brexit) referendum because that would empower the SNP (Scottish National Party) with their argument for independence."

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