Just over three weeks before the UK walks out of the European Union, there has been no breakthrough to amend Britain's divorce deal. The deadlock between the EU and Britain is centered on the so-called Irish backstop.
The European Union said Wednesday there has been no progress in the latest talks with Britain, just days before the UK lawmakers are set for a second vote to avoid a hard Brexit.
EU diplomats led by negotiator Michel Barnier and his UK counterparts met in Brussels on Tuesday in a bid to amend their divorce deal before Britain's scheduled exit on March 29.
"Michel Barnier has informed...that while the talks take place in a constructive atmosphere, discussions have been difficult," said Margaritis Schinas, spokesman for the European Commission, the bloc's executive.
"No solution has been identified at this point that is consistent with the withdrawal agreement, including the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, which will not be reopened," Schinas said.
At the center of the deadlock is the Irish backstop that is aimed at ensuring there is no hard border between Ireland, a member of the EU, and Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom.
British Attorney General Geoffrey Cox told Sky News television talks that both sides "exchanged robust strong views and we're now facing the real discussions" after the UK put forward some "very reasonable proposals."
Brexit delay on table
British Prime Minister Theresa May lost a vote in Parliament on a draft Brexit deal in January largely due to resistance from lawmakers within her Conservative Party who opposed to the backstop arrangement.
May is hoping to bring an amended Brexit deal back to deeply split UK lawmakers ahead of another vote on Tuesday, warning that another failure in parliament risked a no-deal exit or delay.
With only a little more than three weeks until the March 29 Brexit date, EU and British officials are worried that a Brexit without a pre-negotiated deal could unleash economic chaos.
May last week broached the possibility of delaying Brexit if a deal cannot be reached. The EU's 28 leaders will decide at a March 21-22 summit whether to extend the Brexit timeline.
cw/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)