Talks with Britain on amending its divorce deal with the European Union have made no headway and no swift solution is in sight, EU officials said on Wednesday, a week before British lawmakers must vote on the plan to avoid a chaotic Brexit.
Diplomats said talks in Brussels on Tuesday led by British Prime Minister Theresa May’s chief lawyer, Geoffrey Cox, failed to yield a repackaged deal, with barely over three weeks to go before Britain’s scheduled departure on March 29.
At the heart of the impasse is the Irish “backstop”, an insurance policy May accepted in the withdrawal deal to ensure no return to a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit.
May now wants a legally guaranteed time limit to the backstop, saying otherwise Britain could be locked indefinitely in a customs union with the EU. Brussels has offered assurances the backstop would be temporary pending a future trade deal.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said after more than three hours of talks with Cox that “while the talks take place in a constructive atmosphere, discussions have been difficult”, according to the European Commission spokeswoman.
“No solution has been identified at this point,” Margaritis Schinas told a news conference.
Reuters news contributed to this report..