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The EU warns May that a Brexit breakthrough is still ‘a long way off’

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michel barnier Brexit talks
Michel Barnier meets Theresa May
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  • Dominic Raab and Michel Barnier to hold six hours of
    Brexit talks on Friday.
  • The pair will take stock of Brexit talks before holding
    an afternoon press conference.
  • The UK and EU are still a “long way off” a deal on the
    Northern Irish backstop, senior EU source tells BI.
  • The pound surged this week following suggestions that
    Barnier and Emmanuel Macron were softening their Brexit
    positions.
  • Both Barnier and French minister, Nathalie
    Loiseau, have shot down this suggestion.

 

LONDON — UK and EU negotiators are still a “long way off” from
making a breakthrough in talks, a senior EU source has told
Business Insider, as the two sides prepare to meet for six hours
of talks on Friday.

The British press has recently jumped on suggestions that the EU
could be softening its position following interventions from
chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier and French President Emmanuel
Macron.

However, figures in Brussels were quick to shoot down suggestions
that Barnier was softening his position, and pointed out that the
EU has always been prepared to strike an unprecedented Brexit
deal, as long as it respects the bloc’s red lines.

Barnier told German media outlet Deutschlandfunk
 that the Brexit withdrawal agreement could not be “built to
the detriment of who we are” and said: “we have to preserve and
protect what makes us.”

On Friday morning, Nathalie Loiseau, the French minister for
European Affairs, told the Today programme that she was
“surprised” to see the British press suggest that President
Macron was softening his Brexit position.

“First and foremost, The unity of the 27 and support towards
Michel Barnier is extremely strong,” Loiseau told Today.

“And second, what the President mentioned in the conference of
ambassadors earlier this week, was something he already mentioned
last year.

“That is to say that in the future, there is going to be an EU
that needs to be reformed, and there’s going to be strong
relations with countries outside the EU. Especially the UK, but
also Russia and Turkey.

“This is what he said last September and repeated this week.
There is no news around this.”

She added: “The problem with the current proposal of the UK
government is it would join the benefits rights of Norway with
the obligations of Canada… There has to be a balance of rights
and obligations.”

UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Barnier, the EU’s chief
Brexit negotiator, will meet for six hours on Friday “to take
stock” of the current state of Brexit talks, before a short press
conference this afternoon.

The two sides need to reach an agreement on the thorny issue of
the Northern Irish backstop — the fallback option to take effect
if talks on future trade fail to preserve the open border on the
island of Ireland.

An agreement on the backstop is still “a long way off,” senior EU
source told Business Insider. There are just over six weeks until
the October European Council summit, where negotiators had hoped
to finalise a withdrawal deal.

The pound surged this week
after Barnier said the EU was ready to strike an unprecedented
deal with the UK. This was followed by reports
that Macron would urge EU leaders to be more generous to Britain.

Our Brexit Insider Facebook group is the best place for up-to-date news and analysis about Britain’s departure from the EU, direct from Business Insider’s political reporters. Join here.

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