European Union chief Jean-Claude Juncker 'not optimistic' of avoiding no deal Brexit

European Union chief Jean-Claude Juncker 'not optimistic' of avoiding no deal Brexit

Jean-Claude Juncker has said he is "not very optimistic" that the United Kingdom going to avoid a no-deal Brexit and said he is "fatigued" after recent talks with Theresa May.

She is pushing for tweaks to the so-called backstop, an arrangement that would keep Britain aligned with the EU's customs union to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

May needs to convince eurosceptics in her Conservative Party that the backstop will not keep Britain indefinitely tied to the European Union, but also that she is still considering a compromise idea agreed between Brexit supporters and pro-EU lawmakers.

They also discussed whether additions or changes to the previously agreed Political Declaration on the future EU-UK relations can be made that are consistent with the EU and UK positions.

"But May won't get any firm wording before February 28".

The Labour Party was "determined" to remove the possibility of a no-deal exit, he said, adding that Barnier had conveyed the EU's own fears about the predicted economic damage such an outcome would entail for both sides.

After the Brussels talks, the PM said: "I have underlined the need for us to see legally binding changes to the backstop that ensure that it can not be indefinite".

"The danger of no deal exit from the EU for Britain is a very serous and present one", Corbyn told reporters afterwards, urging May to soften her stance, which he said was being driven by her Conservative Party's pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG) of MPs.

But he said, "I am not very optimistic when it comes to this issue".

Britain's Brexit ministry said after talks in Brussels on Thursday that negotiations were now focused on getting new guarantees on the temporary nature of the Irish backstop.

He said: "If no deal were to happen, and I cannot exclude this, this would have awful economic and social consequences in Britain and on the continent, so my efforts are oriented in a way that the worst can be avoided".

Barclay, Barnier and Cox were due to continue talks "urgently" at a technical level, the UK's Brexit ministry said.

May said her Brexit Minister Stephen Barclay and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox would be back in Brussels on Thursday - just three days since their last visit - as the pace of negotiations picks up.

Their joint statement did not mention any changes to an already negotiated withdrawal agreement between the British government and the European Union.

The newspaper quotes the letter as stating that "numerous" members of the group intend to back amendments taking the no-deal option off the table and delaying Brexit if a rejection of the Government's deal looks likely.

The Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP told BBC Wales that he would use his vote in the Commons to stop no-deal from happening.

The discussions may be over officially for the coming week as a summit with the Arab League in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh will occupy the EU's time over the course of the next several days.

The three defectors from May's party said they were joining a new independent group in parliament set up this week by seven former lawmakers of the main opposition Labour Party, which is as divided over Brexit as the Conservatives.

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