Brexit news: Barnier REJECTS new talk hopes as Barclay faces major Brussels SNUB | UK | News

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Mr Barclay, Brexit Secretary, will make his first trip to the Belgian capital for negotiations with his EU counterpart after Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker last week pledged to hold further talks. Brexit negotiatons risk hitting to the brink as Brussels refuses to budge on the Irish backstop despite the Prime Minister warning top EU officials MPs won’t back her deal unless there is a new concession. Both Mr Juncker, the European Commission president, and Donald Tusk, the European Council president, refused to reopen discussions on the hated insurance mechanism, which would prevent a hard Irish border, in crunch talks last week.

A UK Government spokesman said tonight’s dinner meeting between Mr Barclay and Mr Barnier will “explore whether a way through can be found that’s acceptable to both the UK Parliament and the EU”.

The Brexit Secretary will likely push the additions of a time limit to the backstop, a unilateral exit mechanism or alternative arrangements to prevent a hard border.

Mr Barnier sounded a less positive tone when he claimed it was simply an opportunity to listen to British ideas.

He said: “I am looking forward to meeting Stephen Barclay in Brussels on Monday evening.

“I will listen to how the UK sees the way through. The EU will not reopen the withdrawal agreement.

“But I reaffirm our openness to rework the political declaration in full respect of European Council guidelines.”

In a joint statement, issued after their meeting last Thursday, Mrs May and Mr Juncker said: “President Juncker underlined that the EU27 will not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, which represents a carefully balanced compromise between the European Union and the UK, in which both sides have made significant concessions to arrive at a deal.”

The statement added: “Despite the challenges, the two leaders agreed that their teams should hold talks as to whether a way through can be found that would gain the broadest possible support in the UK Parliament and respect the guidelines agreed by the European Council.

“The Prime Minister and the President will meet again before the end of February to take stock of these discussions.”

After his Brussels dinner, Mr Barclay is expected to travel to Strasbourg in order to meet European Parliament leaders.

Domestically, Mrs May risked losing the support of key Cabinet members by opening the door to a soft Brexit by engaging with Jeremy Corbyn on a customs union.

In a letter to the Labour leader, she suggested the pair should hold further talks on the issue of a permanent customs union in an attempt to win over Labour MPs for her Brexit plan.

Last week, Mr Corbyn dramatically shifted his Brexit strategy in a bid to seize control of the negotiations.

He offered Labour support for the Prime Minister’s draft EU withdrawal deal but only if Mrs May committed to five legally binding commitments.

His demands included a permanent UK-wide customs union with close alignment to the EU’s single market, and alignments on rights and protections to keep Britain inline with Brussels.

Mrs May has pledged to engage with Mr Corbyn but has ruled out his pitch for a customs union.



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