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EU’s Barnier to meet UK Brexit negotiators on Tuesday

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European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier addresses a press conference at the European Commission in Brussels on December 20, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNAND

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will meet Britain’s negotiating team on Tuesday, an EU spokesman said, as both sides seek a breakthrough in the thorny Irish border issue.

Barnier “will meet tomorrow afternoon” with the UK attorney general Geoffrey Cox and Britain’s Brexit minister Stephen Barclay, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told a regular news briefing on Monday.

The meeting, to take place in Brussels, comes after Barnier said on Saturday that the European Union was ready to give Britain further guarantees to help push a troubled divorce deal through the British parliament.

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Barnier also suggested European leaders would be amenable to a short “technical” delay in Britain’s departure from the EU, scheduled for March 29, to give the British parliament time to formally ratify a final divorce deal.

The small overture to Britain has raised hopes that both sides can find a solution, including to the so-called “backstop” plan for the Irish border, a major sticking point for many MPs in British parliament.

In 2017, Britain invoked Article 50 of EU law, triggering a two-year countdown to Brexit that ends at 11pm (2300 GMT) on March 29.

The country is on course to leave without an agreement if British MPs fail to approve a divorce deal struck by British Prime Minister Theresa May that was overwhelmingly rejected in a first vote in January.

The embattled leader is now seeking changes to the pact which she hopes will be enough to get it through parliament by March 12.


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