EU says latest Brexit talks have failed, with 'no solution' found on Northern Ireland backstop

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<em>The latest talks aimed at breaking the Brexit deadlock have failed, according to the European Commission (Picture: PA)</em>
The latest talks aimed at breaking the Brexit deadlock have failed, according to the European Commission (Picture: PA)

There is “no solution” to the latest impasse in Brexit talks, the European Commission has said.

The commission said the latest talks between EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay – which were hoped to break the deadlock over the Northern Ireland backstop – had failed to achieve a breakthrough.

Tuesday’s meeting took place ahead of next week’s “meaningful vote” on Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in the Commons.

Mrs May has said she wants legally binding changes to the backstop – aimed at preventing the return of a hard border – to ensure the UK is not tied to EU rules indefinitely.

The move was hoped to convince MPs to back her deal, but Mr Barnier told the weekly meeting of the College of Commissioners in Brussels that negotiations were proving “difficult” and a way forward had not been found.

The commission’s chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters: “Michel Barnier was present and informed the commissioners that while the talks take place in a constructive atmosphere, discussions have been difficult.

“No solution has been identified at this point that is consistent with the Withdrawal Agreement, including the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland which, as you all know, will not be reopened.”

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As Mrs May prepares for next week’s vote, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox refused to rule out backing a no-deal Brexit if the Withdrawal Agreement is voted down by MPs next week.

Dr Fox told the Commons International Trade Committee that no-deal was “hugely sub-optimal, compared to getting a deal”, but when asked whether the Government would back no-deal in the vote scheduled for the following day if the agreement fails, he said: “Potentially all things are possible.”

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