BRUSSELS – The European Union and the United Kingdom will negotiate “continuously” to reach an accord over Brexit with an eye toward avoiding Britain’s exit from the club, chief European negotiator Michel Barnier said on Tuesday.
“The negotiations are now entering the final stage. We have agreed that the EU and UK will negotiate continuously from now on,” said Barnier at a press conference after meeting in Brussels with Britain’s Brexit minister, Dominic Raab.
The French politician said the pair would increase the number of their meetings, and “move the negotiations forward.”
The two chief negotiators held a meeting at the headquarters of the European Commission, where they are holding a working round of talks with technical teams from both sides.
The agenda basically focuses on three things: the border between Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland, the withdrawal agreement and the political statement on the future relationship between the EU and Britain.
Both men defended the need to find “pragmatic” solutions to the issue so that an agreement can be reached before the UK’s exit from the EU on March 30, 2019.
Barnier said that the two parties will try to move forward on a common basis for the agreement, despite the fact that the British proposals are at odds with negotiation directives being pursued by the Europeans.
Raab, meanwhile, emphasized the importance of keeping the Northern Ireland border issue and the future EU-UK relationship within the same “package.”
The British minister said the two sides had agreed to meet next week again in Brussels with an eye toward reaching an agreement in October.
When asked about what responsibility the EU would bear if a pact cannot be agreed to in time, Barnier said that it was the UK who is leaving the EU and not vice versa, thus putting any blame onto London.