Gove heads to Brussels after last talks ended in legal threat and acrimony

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove will hold talks in Brussels ahead of a week of negotiations to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.

Mr Gove will meet European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic to discuss the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement after their last talks ended in acrimony.

Earlier this month, Mr Sefcovic issued the UK with an ultimatum to drop controversial provisions in legislation overriding elements of that Brexit divorce deal by the end of the month or face legal action for breaking international law.

Boris Johnson’s Government pushed on with the UK Internal Market Bill regardless and MPs are due to debate it on Tuesday.

Mr Sefcovic, who co-chairs the EU-UK joint committee with Mr Gove, is expected to address the public on Monday afternoon after the latest talks.

Citizens’ rights and the protocols on Northern Ireland and Gibraltar are among the topics of discussion.

On Tuesday, the ninth round of negotiations on a future relationship between the two sides will continue in Brussels as time ticks down to December 31, the end of the transition period in which the UK remains in the single market and follows EU rules.

Talks in Brussels will come after Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin said he is “not optimistic” that a trade deal will be struck.

Mr Martin said there was still the “potential for a deal”, but warned that the controversial Bill enabling the UK to break international law had “eroded trust”.

He told the i newspaper in an interview to be broadcast at the Liberal Democrat conference on Monday that the legislation “damaged the credibility” of agreements already entered into.

Asked if he believes a free trade deal is likely, he said: “I’m not that optimistic, if I’m honest. Just to let you know that the (Irish) government is preparing its budget in three weeks’ time on the basis that there will be a no-deal Brexit.

“That’s the basis on which we’re preparing the budget and we’re warning and alerting businesses to that terrible reality.

“I think progress has been slow in the talks so far, I think there is still potential for a deal, I believe a deal is the sane and sensible thing to do, and I think all of us as politicians have an obligation to those we represent – and in terms of Brexit that means the least damage possible to workers, to employers and to business and economy.”