British Prime Minister Theresa May has failed to reach an agreement with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk during Brexit talks in Brussels on February 7. But in the end, they agreed to hold a new round of formal negotiations.
Tusk later tweeted: “Still no breakthrough in sight. Talks will continue.” May described the meeting as “robust and constructive”.
“What I’ve set out is our clear position that we must secure legally binding changes to the withdrawal agreement to deal with the concerns that parliament has over the backstop, and that changes to the backstop, together with the other work we’re doing on workers’ rights and other issues, will deliver a stable majority in parliament,” she said.
“That’s what I will continue to push for. It’s not going to be easy but crucially President Juncker and I have agreed that talks will now start to find a way through this, to find a way to get this over the line and to deliver on the concerns that parliament has, so we get a majority in parliament.”
As reported by the Guardian, Juncker resolutely rebuffed May’s demand for a renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement. In turn, May confronted Tusk over his recent comments in which he said Brexiters without a plan would have “a special place in hell”.
May said “the language was not helpful and caused widespread dismay in the United Kingdom”.
But in a significant step a joint statement from Downing Street and the European Commission announced new talks on the “speed” with which the two sides would seek to complete post-Brexit talks on a future trade deal.
On February 11, May’s Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, is scheduled to meet the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, in Strasbourg. But the two sides also indicated that significant progress is not expected by February 13, when the prime minister had suggested she might put a revised deal to MPs.
In a separate report, Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, noted that Juncker did express “his openness to add wording to the Political Declaration agreed by the EU27 and the UK in order to be more ambitious in terms of content and speed when it comes to the future relationship between the European Union and the UK”.
What is more, the prospect of further meetings gave rise to suggestions of an extension of Article 50 and a delay to Brexit, reducing the prospect of a ‘no-deal’ exit for the UK from the EU at the end of March.
Back in Britain, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote to May. He called for changes to the political declaration to include a UK-wide customs union, close alignment with the single market, alignment on rights and protections, future UK participation in EU agencies and agreement on security arrangements