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German minister in ‘plea to the Brits’ for Brexit pragmatism

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Britain’s Internal Market Bill would “massively violate” the UK-EU withdrawal agreement signed last year, Germany’s Europe minister has warned in an open letter appealing to London to show pragmatism in the Brexit talks.

“The withdrawal agreement – an international treaty, mind you – was negotiated and signed only nine months ago. And now you are calling it into question again?” reads the letter by minister Michael Roth.

“The EU cannot and will not accept this approach. It is casting a dark shadow over the ongoing negotiations. Apart from anything else, what are our friends in Ireland supposed to think, after we made jointly agreed, special arrangements for the border on the island of Ireland with the intention of preserving peace in Northern Ireland? To recklessly jeopardise that historic achievement would send a disastrous message.”

The letter, published in Der Spiegel magazine in German and English, said a failure to reach an agreement would be a “huge disappointment” but that the 27 member states were “well prepared” for the possibility of a no-deal.

Sharing his appeal online, Mr Roth described the letter as his “plea to the Brits” and said that “pragmatism and good will are needed – and not a constant obsession with who will be the winner and who the loser”.

The development comes as British and EU negotiators meet in Brussels to try to break the deadlock in the talks, which are hamstrung over issues including fishing rights, governance and state aid, with member states wary that London could seek to slash regulations and give companies advantages that would allow them to undercut EU counterparts.

“We have always made it clear that guarantees of fair competition are an indispensable condition for the successful conclusion of the negotiations,” Mr Roth writes. “Where the EU is concerned, there will be no backhanded compromises on internal market matters or on social and environmental standards.”

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