Brexit: May heads back to Brussels but European Union not budging

Brexit: May heads back to Brussels but European Union not budging

Brexit: May heads back to Brussels but European Union not budging

With less than six weeks until Brexit day, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has agreed to meet May once again, but EU leaders insist they will not restart negotiations.

The Malthouse Compromise, championed by Conservative lawmakers from the party's pro- and anti-EU wings, seeks to use technology to replace the backstop, an insurance policy created to stop a return to a hard border between EU-member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, will brief the College of Commissioners of the latest developments and will stress that the aim of Wednesday's meeting is to find a formula that will be supported by the House of Commons.

He said there was not enough time to implement it before Britain leaves on March 29 - meaning the compromise could only form part of discussions around the future relationship. "We will have friendly talk tomorrow but I don't expect a breakthrough".

Under the current Brexit deal negotiated between May and the European Union, there would be a long transition to make sure businesses and trade suffer as little as possible.

An extension of Article 50 - which determines the exit date - must be agreed unanimously by all the EU's remaining 27 member states.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said on Sunday (17 February) that changes needed to be made to the backstop, and that did not necessarily mean the agreement needed to be reopened.

Without a deal, Britain is due to leave the Union abruptly after four decades on 29 March, with no follow-on agreement or transition period to manage trade and economic relations.

"There is a process of engagement going on".

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Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay and the attorney-general Geoffrey Cox will also head back to Brussels tomorrow to follow up on their two hours of talks on Monday.

May needs to convince euroskeptics in her Conservative Party that the backstop will not keep Britain indefinitely tied to the European Union, but also that she is still considering a compromise idea agreed between Brexit supporters and pro-EU lawmakers.

The EU has offered to change the accompanying political declaration on new EU-UK ties after Brexit or to produce separate legal assurances or clarifications over the backstop.

The Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) confirmed the discussions with Mr Barnier included the so-called "Malthouse compromise" being worked on by Tory MPs in the Alternative Arrangements Working Group. "We can not accept a time limit to the backstop or a unilateral exit clause", he said.

The statement said: "While the Commission engaged seriously with these proposals it expressed concerns about their viability to resolve the backstop".

The EU says the backstop is essential for peace on the island of Ireland.

Eurosceptic lawmakers said Malthouse was "alive and kicking" after meeting May on Tuesday.

Barroso said Tuesday that the bloc would likely accept a request to the extension to sort out the details of departure.

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