BERLIN | The Latest: UK’s May, EU’s Juncker say talks ‘constructive’

BERLIN (AP) — The Latest on Brexit, Britain’s impending departure from the European Union (all times local):

8:20 p.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker say they had a “constructive” dinner meeting and plan to meet again before the end of the month to assess progress in the Brexit negotiations.

Expectations had been low before Juncker and May met for their latest round of Brexit talks on Wednesday.

Their joint statement did not mention any changes to an already negotiated withdrawal agreement between the British government and the European Union. May has been seeking revisions because Parliament have refused to approve the deal on Britain’s exit from the EU.

But it mentioned possible “alternative arrangements” and changes to an accompanying declaration as potential options.


7:10 p.m.

Fresh from a political setback at home, British Prime Minister Theresa May has arrived at European Union headquarters in Brussels for more talks on Brexit with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

May’s prospects for a happier ending to her day were slim as Juncker already made clear that he expected little to emerge from their second encounter this month.

In London, May lost three Tory legislators earlier in the day over her handling of the Brexit negotiations. They resigned to join a new centrist group. Still, it was Juncker who looked most beaten up, with a band aid on his left cheek, the result of a bad shaving experience.

He says “I don’t want you to think Mrs. May is responsible for this injury on my face.”

The two even failed to shake hands before they headed into the meeting.


5:20 p.m.

Britain’s foreign secretary says London needs a change “of legal significance” to the wording of arrangements meant to ensure that the U.K.-Ireland border stays open after Brexit, but isn’t specifying how that might be achieved.

British lawmakers last month rejected the withdrawal agreement their government negotiated with the European Union. Their objections centered on a safeguard that would keep the U.K. in a customs union with the EU so no checks along the Irish border are needed until a permanent new trading relationship is in place.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said after meeting his German counterpart Wednesday that “what we need to do is to put some flesh on the bone of what ‘temporary’ actually means.”

Hunt said “the biggest risk to Brexit now is defeatism about the possibility of finding that parliamentary agreement” in the U.K. to approve the divorce deal.


11:40 a.m.

Brexit-driven cracks in Britain’s political party system yawned wider, as three pro-European lawmakers quit the ruling Conservatives to join a new centrist group of independents.

All the lawmakers are opposed to the Conservative government’s determination to take Britain out of the European Union with or without a divorce deal.

Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston resigned to join eight ex-opposition Labour Party lawmakers in an alliance dubbed the Independent Group. The defections involve only a small fraction of the 650 lawmakers in the House of Commons, but mark the biggest shake-up in decades for Britain’s political parties.

The breakaway lawmakers hope to gain members from disgruntled pro-Europeans in both the Labour and Conservative parties and forge a new force at the center of British politics.
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11:30 a.m.

Britain’s foreign secretary says securing an orderly Brexit is “of paramount importance” as he visited Germany, and insisted the U.K. can leave the European Union on March 29 as planned if a compromise deal is found.

Jeremy Hunt was meeting officials in Berlin ahead of Prime Minister Theresa May’s trip to Brussels later Wednesday for talks with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. May is seeking changes to Britain’s withdrawal agreement after British lawmakers resoundingly rejected it last month, but the EU insists negotiations won’t be reopened.

The stalemate has raised fears of Britain leaving without a divorce deal in place at the end of March, an outcome that could cause severe economic disruption.

Hunt says “an orderly departure from the EU is of paramount importance.” He spoke in a speech to the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a think tank linked to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party.

 

By Associated Press