Not there but however nearer: Britain and EU haggle over Brexit compromise

LONDON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Britain and the European Union on Thursday performed down the possibilities of clinching a right away Brexit divorce deal however diplomats mentioned they have been edging nearer to a authorized compromise that Prime Minister Theresa Could hopes will win over the British parliament.

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond is seen outdoors Downing Road in London, Britain January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photograph

Could is attempting to get modifications to the divorce package deal earlier than placing it to a different vote in parliament. If she fails, Could should resolve whether or not to delay Brexit or endanger the world’s fifth largest financial system by leaving with out a deal on March 29.

Could’s finance minister, Philip Hammond, raised hopes {that a} revised deal was on the playing cards by saying lawmakers might get a possibility as early as subsequent week to vote on a revised deal.

However inside hours of his feedback, a British authorities supply, talking on situation of anonymity, performed down the probability of a deal inside days.

“It doesn’t really feel like we can have a deal by subsequent week,” the supply mentioned.

Could’s largest downside is the so-called Irish backstop, an insurance coverage coverage to maintain the border open between the British province of Northern Eire and EU member Eire if a future commerce deal falls quick after Brexit.

Parliament instructed her to interchange the backstop by reopening the Withdrawal Settlement, however the EU dominated that out.

Britain’s Brexit ministry mentioned after talks in Brussels on Thursday that negotiations have been now targeted on getting new ensures on the momentary nature of the Irish backstop.

In an announcement after Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and Legal professional Normal Geoffrey Cox met EU negotiator Michel Barnier, the ministry gave a transparent indication that Could was not pushing to reopen the Withdrawal Settlement, even when that remained the federal government’s most well-liked choice.

“The only option to get legally binding modifications on the backstop is to reopen the Withdrawal Settlement. That continues to be the Authorities’s place,” the ministry mentioned.

However, referring to talks on Wednesday between Could and European Fee President Jean-Claude Juncker, it mentioned the 2 leaders “agreed that work would now give attention to ensures regarding the backstop that underline as soon as once more its momentary nature and provides acceptable authorized assurance to each side, in addition to various preparations and the political declaration.”

Diplomats mentioned the 2 sides have been shifting in direction of a separate authorized assertion – a “parallel declaration” or “interpretative instrument” – on the backstop.

“We’re additionally updating the declaration on future EU-UK ties after Brexit to provide extra prominence to the ‘various preparations’ sought by Britain,” mentioned one EU diplomat who offers with Brexit.

“However Could received’t get any agency wording earlier than Feb. 28.”

Barclay, Barnier and Cox have been as a result of proceed talks “urgently” at a technical degree, the UK’s Brexit ministry mentioned.


Authorized assurances that the backstop is momentary would tackle a key concern of many Brexit-supporting members of her celebration who concern it might lock Britain into EU guidelines indefinitely.

Brexit-supporting members of Could’s Conservative Get together have been conspicuous by their silence in regards to the shift from aiming to interchange the backstop, as they demanded, to a authorized addendum.

Could, as soon as a reluctant supporter of EU membership who received the highest job within the political chaos following the 2016 referendum, has promised to provide lawmakers an opportunity to resolve what to do about Brexit on Feb. 27 except she will be able to deliver again a deal.

A second diplomat, briefed on the Could-Juncker talks, confirmed the EU would solely sign this was the route of journey, relatively than providing a exact textual content, earlier than Could faces one other vote in parliament.

“The parliament wants first to point clearly this feature would then acquire their help within the type of ratifying the Brexit deal. In the event that they do this, we hone out precise phrases within the second week of March and it goes to the summit for approval.”

In any other case, the summit of all EU nationwide leaders that’s due on March 21-22 in Brussels, must agree a Brexit delay for Britain past March 29, sources within the bloc mentioned, to delay the worst-case situation of an abrupt cut up with out a deal.

Could can have an extra likelihood to foyer EU leaders on the weekend within the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh throughout an EU-Arab League summit targeted on migration, commerce and safety.

British lawmakers voted 432-202 towards her deal on Jan. 15, the worst defeat in fashionable British parliamentary historical past.

With the clock ticking right down to March 29, the date set in legislation for Brexit, Britain is ensnared within the deepest political disaster in half a century because it grapples with how, and even whether or not, to exit the European venture that it joined in 1973.

Juncker mentioned failure to agree an orderly divorce could be economically devastating.

“If no deal have been to occur, and I can not exclude this, this is able to have horrible financial and social penalties in Britain and on the continent,” he mentioned. “However I’m not very optimistic relating to this concern.”

Further reporting by Alastair Macdonald and Jan Strupczewski in Brussels and Andrew MacAskill in London; Writing by Man Faulconbridge; Modifying by Alison Williams and Frances Kerry

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