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Brexit minister hints UK can compromise but EU must show flexibility

LONDON Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay suggested yesterday that Britain is open to compromise with the European Union (EU) over new British proposals for Northern Ireland, but urged Brussels to show "creativity and flexibility".

Mr Barclay reiterated British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's latest plans for a managed withdrawal from the bloc on Oct 31 were "a broad landing zone" ahead of "intense negotiations in the coming days".

"We need to get into the intensive negotiations... to clarify what the deal is," Mr Barclay told the BBC. "We've set out very serious proposals including compromise on our side. We now need to see creativity and flexibility on the EU side in order to reach that deal."

The EU reacted tepidly to the plans and urged London to offer a revised, viable way forward.

The two sides will resume crunch talks today, with time running out ahead of a crucial EU summit on Oct 17-18.

"If the offer from the UK turns out to be a take it or leave it, it's going to be very difficult I see in agreeing," Latvian Prim e Minister Krisjanis Karins told the BBC yesterday. "It is fully dependent on the will of Mr Johnson because from the European side, we're always open and looking towards a deal."

The British proposals submitted to Brussels centre on how to manage the post-Brexit border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

Mr Johnson wants Northern Ireland's devolved assembly - which has been suspended for almost three years - to vote every four years on whether to maintain EU rather than British regulations there.

He has also proposed the province leaves the EU's customs union along with the rest of Britain, with required checks to rely on untried technology and carried out away from the sensitive border.

Brussels has said the plans "do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement". It sees potential for rampant smuggling while Ireland is concerned hardline Northern Irish unionists would have an effective veto.

Mr Barclay has hinted Britain could be willing to consider alternatives to the role of the Northern Irish assembly to break the deadlock.- AFP

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