UK says focus in Brexit talks is now backstop guarantees

February 21, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Britain’s Brexit ministry said after talks in Brussels on Thursday that the focus of negotiations was now on getting new guarantees on the temporary nature of the Irish backstop.

In a statement after Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox met EU negotiator Michel Barnier, the ministry gave a clear indication that Prime Minister Theresa May was no longer pushing to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, even if that remained the government’s preferred option.

“The simplest way to get legally binding changes on the backstop is to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement. That remains the Government’s position,” the ministry said.

But, it went on referring to talks on Wednesday between May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker: “The Prime Minister and President Juncker agreed that work would now focus on guarantees relating to the backstop that underline once again its temporary nature and give appropriate legal assurance to both sides, as well as alternative arrangements and the political declaration, to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.”

(Reporting by Alastair Macdonald)

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