Difficult’ Brexit talks see no breakthrough, European Commission says

Most sources says, EU thinks there is still some way to go. One week away from the next Meaningful vote (12 February) and 22 days before Brexit. Will there be a new proposal on the Irish Backstop? I think there will be. But it is not an easy process.

Brexit negotiations “have been difficult” and “no solution has been identified” to the Irish backstop, the European Commission has said.

It comes after the latest talks between UK ministers and EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels.

Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said the talks had taken place in a “constructive atmosphere” but there had been no breakthrough.

The UK is pushing for legally-binding changes to the EU deal.

Mr Schinas was speaking after Mr Barnier briefed the European Commission’s weekly meeting on the state of Brexit talks.

Speaking after talks with Mr Barnier, the UK’s Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said: “Both sides have exchanged robust, strong views. We’re now facing the real discussions. Talks will be resuming soon.”

He added: “We’re into the meat of the matter, we’ve put forward very reasonable proposals.”

Downing Street echoed Mr Barnier’s characterisation of the talks as “difficult”, but said the negotiations were “ongoing”.

“The EU continues to say that it wants this to be resolved and that it wants the UK to leave with a deal. Parliament has been clear that for this to happen, we require legally-binding changes which mean that the UK can’t be trapped in the backstop indefinitely,” said the PM’s official spokesman.

“That is what we will continue to pursue.”

The backstop is an insurance policy – designed to avoid a hard border “under all circumstances” – between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Prime Minister Theresa May is pinning her hopes on getting changes to it that will prevent the UK from being tied to EU customs rules if no permanent trade deal is agreed after Brexit.

She believes this would be enough to get MPs – who last month rejected her deal by an historic margin – to back her deal in a vote she has promised on or before 12 March.

But the EU has consistently refused to rewrite the deal it has struck with Mrs May, which is meant to ensure an orderly departure from the bloc on 29 March and pave the way for trade talks.

And Mr Barnier repeated that message to EU leaders, according to Mr Schinas.

“Discussions have been difficult and no solution has been identified to that is consistent with the withdrawal agreement, including the Northern Ireland protocol which, as you know, will not be reopened,” he said at a press conference in Brussels.

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