Brexit Secretary: Let Barnier renegotiate or no-deal is coming down the tracks

The Brexit Secretary has called on EU leaders to give their chief negotiator the mandate to re-broker an agreement, otherwise no-deal “is coming down the tracks”.

But Stephen Barclay’s plea regarding Michel Barnier came as further Government leaks warned of the impacts a no-deal would have on the UK.

Schools may have to close, food for pupils’ meals could run short and exams may be disrupted, according to the Department for Education (DfE) analysis obtained by the Observer.

Mr Barclay said the EU negotiator told him in their discussion this week that he is bound by the instructions given to him by the Commission and leaders of member states.

Michel Barnier
The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

But Mr Barclay argued the “political realities have changed” since the task was set, with 61% of MEPs having changed in the recent election.

“Such a fundamental shift illustrates the need for a change of approach,” Mr Barclay wrote in the Mail on Sunday.

“Mr Barnier needs to urge EU leaders to consider this if they too want an agreement, to enable him to negotiate in a way that finds common ground with the UK. Otherwise, no-deal is coming down the tracks.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ramped up his rhetoric over his desires to take the UK out of the EU by October 31, as part of his “do or die” commitment.

He has clashed with EU leaders, saying the Irish backstop to prevent a hard border must be abolished and insisted a new deal can be achieved.

But Brussels has refused to reopen Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement and Irish premier Leo Varadkar told him this week that the backstop was “necessary as a consequence of decisions taken in the UK”.

The threat posed by a no-deal departure has been disclosed in a series of departmental leaks this week.

With our education system already at breaking point after years of Tory budget cuts, being forced to prepare for this kind of chaos is the last thing that schools and nurseries need. Boris Johnson must abandon his irresponsible and expensive obsession with no deal.

— Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) August 3, 2019

Citing Dover as having the highest risk, the DfE document says: “Risk of travel disruption could result in school and early years settings closures, pupil and staff absence and exam disruption.”

It says that communications “could spark undue alarm or panic food buying among the general public” and that “in light of any food shortages” it will guide on how schools “can interpret the food menu standards flexibly”.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: “This document lays bare the potential consequences of a disastrous no-deal Brexit for our schools and nurseries, and the parents and children who rely on them.

“By the Government’s own admission, head teachers may be left unable to feed their pupils or forced to close their doors entirely.”

The DfE said schools provisions is likely to be protected in the event of no-deal.

“We are confident provision for schools will be protected in the event of the UK having to leave the EU without an agreement and there are robust contingency plans in place to ensure schools are prepared in all eventualities,” a spokeswoman said.

A separate leaked Government document suggested no-deal could trigger “consumer panic”, food shortages and an increased security threat within a fortnight.

Warnings also came from Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, who said that shoppers and motorists will face higher prices and a “substantial number” of firms could find they can no longer compete in its event.

The Government’s spending watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, also recently warned that no-deal would increase borrowing by £30 billion a year and plunge the nation into a recession.

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