Downing Street has rejected an offer from the EU to “intensify” Brexit negotiations – just minutes after Michael Gove welcomed it as a “constructive” move.
The offer from Michel Barnier saw Mr Gove thinking on his feet in the Commons after the Cabinet Office minister had told colleagues the EU was refusing to negotiate on a string of key points.
Despite Mr Gove’s positive reaction, however, No 10 later insisted there was still no basis to resume talks.
Mr Gove also clashed with former prime minister Theresa May, who said the UK’s security will be damaged if police lose access to key databases and partnerships in the event of no deal.
The minister responded by claiming that the UK will be able to cooperate more effectively while outside the EU - before reminding Ms May of her own statement that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.
Elsewhere, business secretary Alok Sharma admitted that when Boris Johnson talks about an “Australia-style” deal with the EU, he effectively means a no-deal Brexit. Questioned about the phrase, Mr Sharma said: “Well … it’s a question semantics at the end of the day, sure.”
Semantics or not, the prospect of no deal prompted Britain’s pharmaceutical industry appealed to Mr Johnson to strike a “side-deal” with Brussels to avoid shortages of medicines if the UK crashes out.
Meanwhile ministers are said to be “carefully considering next steps” after the government failed to reach agreement with local leaders in Greater Manchester over a move to Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions.