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No-deal info blitz on way as EU puts paid to more talks

Need to prepare: Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay PICTURE: STEVE BACK

BREXIT talks will not be reopened, the EU insisted yesterday, as the government said it was set to launch a major public information campaign to prepare the UK for a no-deal exit.

The European Commission dismissed Theresa May’s hopes of tweaking the draft withdrawal deal with concessions on the controversial backstop to prevent a hard border with Ireland.

Mina Andreeva (pictured below), a spokeswoman for European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, said EU officials had ‘already started the ratification process’ on the draft deal.

‘We have said many times the deal that is on the table is the best and only deal possible,’ she added. ‘And the EU27 leaders confirmed on December 13 in their conclusions that it will not be renegotiated.’

Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay said an information campaign in the event of a no-deal exit on March 29 would begin next Tuesday, amid concerns it could cause food and medicine shortages.

Writing in the Daily Express, he said: ‘We will start a new phase in our public information campaign, using radio and social media to further raise awareness about the need to prepare.’ The campaign is reportedly set to focus on issues such as visas and passports for EU countries.

In two weeks a vote on the withdrawal agreement returns to the Commons after it was pulled by Mrs May last month. However, it still looks set to be defeated, with opposition from many Tory MPs and the DUP.

Deputy DUP leader Nigel Dodds insisted there was no need for the backstop as ‘no one wants a hard border’ and ‘no one is ever going to construct’ one. The party would continue to work to get a better deal, he added.

Labour said the EU’s comments did not change its stance of wanting a general election, in the hope it would win and go on to renegotiate with Brussels.

Shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman added: ‘It appears that Theresa May’s promise to go back to Brussels to renegotiate was merely a cynical attempt to delay the vote on her botched Brexit deal in parliament.

‘The Tories should stop delaying and let parliament pass judgment on its Brexit deal once and for all.’

Meanwhile, Ireland’s premier Leo Varadkar yesterday confirmed he had spoken to German leader Angela Merkel, at her request, and they would ‘stand by’ the agreement.

THE ‘turbulence’ of a no-deal exit from the EU would put at risk the ‘real gains’ from Brexit to farming and the environment, Michael Gove has said. The environment secretary warned that improved productivity and support for services like flood prevention and cleaner air and water could be undermined if Britain crashes out of the bloc. Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, he added small farm businesses would be worst hit.