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May, Juncker hold 'robust' Brexit meet, agree new talks

AFP  |  Brussels 

Britain and the EU agreed Thursday to hold more talks to try to avoid a no-deal Brexit, after a "robust" meeting between and

A joint statement issued after the talks in said had again warned that November's withdrawal agreement could not be renegotiated -- after May came hoping to persuade to agree on the need to change the so-called "backstop" clause for the Irish border.

But "expressed his openness to add wording" to a parallel political declaration laying out ambitions for future EU-UK ties if wants to seek a "more ambitious" closer relationship after

In a sharp reminder of the urgency of finding a solution before day on March 29, warned that Britain's economy was "not yet prepared" for a no-deal departure.

May came hoping to change the backstop so that Britain cannot be "trapped" in the bloc against its will -- and by doing so win over enough MPs at home to get the deal through parliament.

She reminded Juncker that the had mandated her to seek "a legally binding change to the terms of the backstop", but instead was offered a fresh round of talks. EU will now meet British in on Monday.

May herself will meet Juncker again before the end of February, a commission said.

A stony-faced May shook hands stiffly with Juncker as she arrived at commission headquarters, refusing to answer questions, but she was expected to make a statement later Thursday.

Expectations for the visit were already modest when, on Wednesday, EU kingpins and Juncker torched May's prospects of winning changes to the withdrawal agreement.

Juncker told reporters May already knows and accepts that the Union will not reopen talks on the deal, while Tusk, who represents EU member governments as of the European Council, triggered outrage across the Channel by damning pro-Brexit politicians for -- in his view -- recklessly failing to plan.

"I've been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely," Tusk said.

But even this latest demonstration of EU unity did not deter Downing Street, which insisted May's top priority on the trip was to "find a way to guarantee we cannot, and will not, be trapped in the backstop".

Number 10 said that because the rejected the deal, May must seek material changes to the accord or see it fail.

The impasse in has deepened fears that Britain could crash out of the EU without a deal on March 29, disrupting trade and supplies to May has exasperated EU leaders by repeatedly coming to Brussels without detailed proposals to solve the Brexit deadlock, and Tusk warned her he expected her to bring "a realistic suggestion on how to end the impasse".

Jeremy Corbyn, the of the main opposition Labour party, wrote to May on Thursday setting out his five conditions for backing her on Brexit -- including the UK staying in the EU's customs union.

While his demands will not be palatable to many in May's -- not least because of the deeply entrenched tribalism of British -- it suggests there may be room for manoeuvre, if not yet a clear path to a cross-party deal. After seeing Tusk and Juncker on Thursday, May will have dinner with her Irish counterpart Dublin on Friday.

Varadkar, whose government has stressed the importance of maintaining an open border between and after Brexit, said recent "instability in British politics" showed why a backstop was essential. On Wednesday, May discussed the issue with Northern Irish leaders in the British province.

Last month, the overwhelmingly rejected the Brexit deal that May had negotiated with the EU after 18 months of painstaking diplomacy.

May is now looking into changes to satisfy her MPs, who fear the backstop would keep Britain indefinitely tied to EU rules with even closer alignment for

May's stressed that she was not coming to Brussels to ask for more time and remained determined to deliver a Brexit deal before the March 29 deadline.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, February 07 2019. 20:05 IST
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