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Britons can change terms of Brexit to diverge from EU: pro-Brexit minister Gove

By Alistair Smout

LONDON (Reuters) - British voters will be able to change the terms of the country's relationship with the European Union after leaving the bloc if they don't like the final Brexit deal, senior cabinet minister and pro-Brexit lawmaker Michael Gove said on Saturday.

Britain and the EU achieved "sufficient progress" in Brexit negotiations on Friday to allow them to move on to discussing future trade ties, in a move welcomed by Gove and other Brexit supporters in Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party.

However, while Gove, who is Britain's environment minister, reiterated his support for May, he gave succour to critics of the deal by saying that if Britons were dissatisfied with the terms of Brexit, future governments could change it.

"The British people will be in control. By the time of the next election, EU law and any new treaty with the EU will cease to have primacy or direct effect in UK law," Gove wrote in a column in the Daily Telegraph.

"If the British people dislike the arrangement that we have negotiated with the EU, the agreement will allow a future government to diverge."

Britain is due to exit the EU in March 2019. The next election is not scheduled until 2022, though there has been speculation in British media that it could come earlier, given May's lack of a parliamentary majority and deep divisions within her party about Brexit.

Some eurosceptic voices outside the government have said that May has betrayed British "leave" voters and given in to EU demands with the agreement.

TOUGH WEEK

It has been a tough week for May after Northern Ireland's small Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) - whose support she needs in parliament - unexpectedly blocked an initial deal on Monday, leaving Britain and the EU scrambling to find wording acceptable to all sides ahead of next week's summit of EU leaders.

While agreement was eventually reached on Friday, Gove said that all UK proposals were provisional on a final deal being done, and even then, that arrangement could be revisited by future governments.

Matthew Parris, an anti-Brexit columnist and former Conservative lawmaker, told BBC radio that Gove might envisage a situation in which he would be spearheading a new approach to Brexit.

But Gove, who was briefly in the running to lead the party last year, praised May on Saturday, and said the deal was a result of her "tenacity and skill".

Fellow pro-Brexit cabinet colleague Andrea Leadsom defended his comments, saying it did not imply that May would be replaced before the next election.

"It's simply the case that in taking back control (from Brussels)... it will be for the voters to determine what future governments do," Leadsom told BBC radio. "I think it is a statement of the obvious."

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Gareth Jones)