James O’Brien reveals the biggest stumbling block in Brexit talks

PUBLISHED: 16:18 23 July 2020 | UPDATED: 16:18 23 July 2020

James O'Brien on LBC Radio. Photograph: LBC/Global.

James O'Brien on LBC Radio. Photograph: LBC/Global.

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Broadcaster James O’Brien has revealed the biggest stumbling block in Brexit talks, which is that most Brexiteers in power do not realise what they have already voted for.

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As EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier confirmed that both sides are unlikely to reach agreement in time for the July deadline imposed by Downing Street, O’Brien tried to make some sense over why the prime minister’s “oven-ready” Brexit deal still had not been implemented.

The presenter said he believed one of the biggest stumbling blocks is not the lack of willingness for a deal, but the fact the Brexiteers do not realise what they have already agreed and supported so far.

He said: “Part of the problem being, as Mark Francois demonstrated quite perfectly in a letter he wrote to Barnier recently, is that he didn’t really understand what the Withdrawal Agreement had agreed to already.

“It’s almost Greek in its tragedy. It got Johnson over the line, talking about an oven-ready deal and pretending that he’d managed to set up something different from what Theresa May had failed to get through the House of Commons.


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“And they all got so excited and caught up in the emotion of the moment. But that Withdrawal Agreement has parts that are legally binding and the EU are not really going to step back from the bits they’d already agreed. And that’s one of the reasons why things are in such a state.

Ben Kentish, the station’s political correspondent, intervened to agree. He said: “There’s bits in the political declaration that was agreed that the EU has since accused the UK of going back on. That part is not legally binding in the way the Withdrawal Agreement is. But, of course, the EU says the UK agreed to it nonetheless and it is a matter of trust and honesty that they accuse the government of backtracking on.

“The government hasn’t necessarily denied that, interestingly, it hasn’t denied the suggestion it is had gone back on what is in the political declaration.

“The government simply say it wasn’t legally binding.”

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