The European Union says Brexit discussions with British officials “have been difficult” and that there has been no breakthrough ahead of a key vote in the UK parliament next week.
The latest set of talks between EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his U.K. counterparts started Tuesday are aimed at finding new legal phrasing on how to deal with a border provision between the EU’s Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland.
Prime Minister Theresa May overwhelmingly lost a vote in Parliament on the withdrawal agreement in January largely because many in her own Conservative Party opposed the so-called backstop arrangement that is aimed at ensuring there is no hard border on the island of Ireland.
EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said “no solution has been identified at this point” and that “while the talks take place in a constructive atmosphere, discussions have been difficult.”
Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29. May is hoping to get enough concessions so lawmakers back a revised deal next Tuesday.
Northern Ireland’s top civil servant is warning that a disorderly U.K. exit from the European Union will lead to a sharp increase in unemployment and an exodus of businesses from the region.
David Sterling says “there is currently no mitigation available for the severe consequences of a no-deal outcome.”
Britain and the EU have struck a divorce deal, but the U.K. Parliament has rejected it, largely over concerns about the Ireland-Northern Ireland border.
Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, and businesses fear a “no-deal” exit would severely disrupt trade. It could also destabilize Northern Ireland’s peace process, which relies on an open border.
In a letter to Northern Ireland political leaders, Sterling says a “no-deal” Brexit “could well have a profound and long-lasting impact on society.”