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Mr Lowe was speaking after the European Union initiated legal action against Britain over the publication of the Internal Market Bill, which would give the Government powers to override some aspects of the Northern Ireland protocol in the UK’s withdrawal agreement with the EU – the timing of which he suggested was “bizarre”. The EU’s chief negotiator locked horns with UK counterpart Lord David Frost on Twitter recently – and Mr Lowe said: “I think he is under more pressure.
“Because if you are a German car manufacturer, or one of these people who has got a trade surplus with the UK, what you have got is natural pressure coming from the real economy on to the political negotiator.
“It’s fine when you have got your period where we are continuing to pay in full and trade continues as it did before.
“But if you are a German car manufacturer – and they call us the golden isle because we buy so many of their cars – at the end of the day, if you saw there were now only three months to go and if there was no deal your business would be very badly effected, you would start to put more pressure on.
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I think the natural pressure is building on Barnier
“I think the natural pressure is building on Barnier.”
Mr Lowe, who said he had got to know Mr Barnier reasonably well during his time in Brussels, added: “As a person I like him.
“I think he is a very proud French national who is a fully paid-up believer in the European project.”
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Nevertheless the former MEP warned Mr Johnson against signing up for the kind of trade deal Mr Barnier was pushing for as he argued it would leave the UK “with our hands tied behind our backs” and unable to sign the kind of trade deals it needs with non-EU countries.
He added: “I would go as far as to say that if the Government gets this wrong, while there are massive benefits from a clean-break Brexit there are equally massive downsides from being tied down like Gulliver and not getting the best result from being free.
“So we end up with the worst of both worlds.”
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Mr Lowe said he was also baffled by the timing of the EU’s apparent legal threat, saying: “The timing of it is bizarre.
“We haven’t yet reached the situation where there has been a breach.
“There are still ongoing trade negotiations and as I have always said, the sensible deal is a Canada-style deal which is good for the EU and good for Britain.
“At the end of the day to be pushing the button on legal action at the moment – the timing is bad.
“But on the other hand when you are dealing with somebody like Ursula von der Leyen you are not going to make good decisions are you?”
Mr Lowe concluded: “It’s time for Boris to use his 80-seat majority and show some bloody leadership.
“Do what is right for the British people and try and ensure the best result for the European people.
“I would be prepared to walk away and everybody would be remarkably surprised at how quickly the Europeans beat a path to our door – Barnier would come running!”
A deadline set by the EU for the Government to remove sections of the Internal Market Bill disapply EU law expired yesterday.
The “letter of formal notice” could result in a court case being launched against the UK at the European Court of Justice, the EU’s top court.
In a statement today, European Commission President Ms von der Leyen said: “The problematic provisions have not been removed.
“Therefore this morning the commission has decided to send a letter of formal notice to the UK government. This is the first step in an infringement procedure.”
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