Brexit news latest: No progress on Theresa May’s deal as Michel Barnier negotiations fall flat just six days before key Commons vote

No progress has been made on Theresa May’s Brexit deal after negotiations with European leaders fell flat on Wednesday.

It comes just six days before Mrs May’s much-maligned Withdrawal Agreement goes before Parliament for a second “meaningful vote”.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, met Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay for talks in Brussels.

Mr Cox and Mr Barclay had tried to persuade Mr Barnier that legally binding changes to the Irish backstop were needed if the deal is to get through the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Michel Barnier pictured on Wednesday ahead of his talks with Mr Cox and Mr Barclay (Yves Herman/Reuters)

But Mr Barnier said the negotiations were proving “difficult” and confirmed a way forward had not been found.

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas also reiterated the backstop issue won’t be reopened, saying: “No solution has been identified… including the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland which, as you all know, will not be reopened.”

Mrs May’s official spokesman tried to spin a positive light on the talks, telling reporters in Westminster: “My understanding is that the talks were difficult and there was a robust exchange of views.

“However, talks are ongoing.

“The EU continues to say that it wants this to be resolved and that it wants the UK to leave with a deal. Parliament has been clear that for this to happen, we require legally-binding changes which mean that the UK can’t be trapped in the backstop indefinitely.

“That is what we will continue to pursue.”

Mrs May wants legally-binding changes to the backstop – intended to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland – to ensure the UK is not tied to EU rules indefinitely.

This is a key condition in order to convince hardline Brexiteers, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, to back her deal.

If Mrs May’s deal is voted down on Tuesday, MPs will then vote on Wednesday whether to support a no-deal Brexit. If a no-deal Brexit is rejected, members will then get a vote next Thursday on requesting an extension to Article 50 and delaying EU withdrawal.


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