Talks between British Prime Minister Theresa May’s top government lawyer and European Union negotiators in Brussels to win concessions from the bloc on Brexit have ended with no agreement.
May has sent Attorney General Geoffrey Cox to seek changes to her deal in a last-ditch bid to get it through parliament and smooth Britain’s departure from the EU.
The talks between Cox, Britain’s Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier ended with no agreement after more than three hours on Tuesday.
Sources from both sides said negotiations among lower-ranking officials would continue.
An EU official said Tuesday’s talks did not go well.
Britain is due to leave the EU in 24 days, but parliament’s rejection of May’s deal in January has put in doubt how, when or possibly even if Britain’s biggest foreign and trade policy shift in more than 40 years will take place.
May has charged Cox and Barclay with securing changes to the so-called Irish backstop, an insurance policy to prevent a “hard border” between the UK province of Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland if a future trading relationship falls short.
Time is of the essence, with some businesses increasingly concerned over the risk of a disorderly Brexit, which BMW said on Tuesday could mean it would move some production of engines and its Mini model out of Britain.
May has struggled to convince the EU that she can get the deal through a deeply divided parliament in London, where MPs are increasingly flexing their muscles to try to influence Britain’s departure from the bloc.
She has offered lawmakers the chance to seek to prevent a no-deal departure and to delay Brexit if parliament rejects the deal in a vote she has promised to hold by March 12.
Both British and EU officials have said any delay would probably be just for a few months.
Ministers are hoping Cox can convince eurosceptic lawmakers that he has done enough to remove the threat of Britain ending up in the EU’s customs union indefinitely.
The British government had been looking at either an end date on the provision or some way of London being able to stop the arrangement unilaterally, but have in recent days been less specific about what the changes would amount to.
Both options have long been rejected by the EU.
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