The European Commission and the U.K. Government continued to stick to their respective positions related to Brexit, a Commission spokeswoman said after meetings between Britain’s David Frost and senior Commission officials.
On Thursday morning, Frost, who is British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s adviser on the EU, met the Commission’s interim Secretary-General, Ilze Juhansone, and Stéphanie Riso, a close collaborator of EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier. On Wednesday he had met Clara Martinez Alberola, head of the office of Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Commission Spokesperson Mina Andreeva said these were “introductory meetings”, that usually occur when a new “Sherpa” arrives in Brussels. The Commission reiterated the well-known positions of the EU, in line with the guidelines set by the 27 leaders of the Union, she added.
A British Foreign Office spokesperson indicated on Wednesday that David Frost had been sent to Brussels to request the “abolition” of the Irish backstop “in person”.
Since taking over as head of the British government, Boris Johnson has stressed his opposition to the safety net built into the deal concluded in November 2018 between the EU and his predecessor, Theresa May, that provides for a single customs territory comprising the EU and the UK.
However, the EU views this last-resort mechanism as necessary for preventing the return to a hard border between the U.K. province of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic and refuses to reopen negotiations on the British withdrawal.
On the other hand, it is prepared to modify the political statement accompanying the agreement, and which deals with the future relationship between the two sides.
Boris Johnson’s stance on Brexit is that the UK will leave the EU on 31 October, come what may, even if the two sides fail to reach agreement.
Ms. Andreeva said the contacts would continue, and that Johnson and Juncker would have an opportunity to meet and talk at or before the G7 meeting to be held in Biarritz, France, from 24 to 26 August.