Brussels, March 6: European Union and British negotiators conceded Wednesday that talks aimed at getting their Brexit agreement through parliament in London have been “difficult” as a solution remained elusive three weeks before Britain's exit.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier reported the continued deadlock to the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, after meeting his British counterparts late Tuesday.
Barnier informed the commissioners that “while the talks take place in a constructive atmosphere, discussions have been difficult,” spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.
Barnier added that “no solution has been identified at this point that is consistent with the withdrawal agreement,” Schinas told a press conference.
Prime Minister Theresa May struck the withdrawal deal with the EU in November, but the British parliament overwhelmingly voted it down in January.
MPs continue to challenge the agreement, especially the “backstop” designed to keep the border open between EU-member Ireland and British Northern Ireland after Brexit.
Barnier said the backstop was the sticking point after meeting with UK Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and Brexit minister Stephen Barclay over dinner in the Belgian capital on Tuesday.
May's spokesman said Wednesday in London: “My understanding is that the talks were difficult and that there was a robust exchange of views.”
The spokesman added Britain will “continue to pursue” parliament's demand for legally binding changes to ensure “the UK won't be trapped in the backstop indefinitely.”
The EU sees the provision as vital to preserving the peace process in Northern Ireland but London fears it will tie Britain indefinitely to an EU customs union.
Cox, the British government's top lawyer, told Sky News television he had put forward some “very reasonable proposals” during his talks.