INTERNATIONAL development secretary Penny Mordaunt is ‘confident’ the UK can strike a Brexit deal with Brussels but has today admitted it was ‘always going to go to the wire’.
The Portsmouth North MP said the nation needed to ‘hold its nerve’ as prime minister Theresa May continues her fight to secure Britain a last-minute deal with the European Union.
The Eurosceptic MP’s comments came as the PM today flew to Ireland to meet the nation’s leader, Leo Varadkar to update him on her efforts to get changes to the Brexit withdrawal agreement – and on her discussions with the EU over the Irish border backstop.
Speaking to The News this morning, Ms Mordaunt said the PM had been ‘working really hard’ in ‘building rapport’ with key decision-makers.
The Tory high-flyer added: ‘Although it is complicated and difficult stuff, what I always bear in mind is that everybody wants a deal; we want a deal, Ireland wants a deal, all the other member states want a deal – the commission wants a deal.
‘We will get there in the end but we really do need to hold our nerve as the prime minister has and get what our nation needs.’
Britain is exactly seven weeks away from officially cutting ties with the European Union on March 29.
The EU has vowed to hold more talks with the UK to help Mrs May get a Brexit deal through the Commons after she failed to secure the confidence of the house on her previous deal.
Quizzed whether agreeing a Brexit deal had been tougher than expected, prominent Leave campaigner Ms Mordaunt said: ‘History looks neat and tidy. You can always look back at things and think “Oh, that was very straightforward” but those things never were at the time.
‘We always knew this was going to be difficult but also that it would go to the wire. But I remain optimistic and confident.
‘It is something that matters a great deal to the people in our city, whether they voted remain or to leave, that the referendum result is delivered and we are absolutely determined to do that.’
Yesterday the PM met with EU chiefs in Brussels to persuade them to agree to changes to the Irish border backstop.
According to the BBC, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has ruled out legally-binding changes to the backstop clause in the 585-page withdrawal document.
However, he said the EU would be open to adding words to the non-binding future relations document that goes with the withdrawal agreement.
Mrs May’s meeting with Ireland’s leader is expected to take place tonight.