European President Jean-Claude Juncker and UK Prime Minister Theresa May met yesterday evening in Brussels to take stock of their efforts to deliver the UK’s orderly withdrawal from the EU. The clock is ticking, with the risk of UK crashing out of the EU on 29 March without any deal increasing for every day because of disagreement on the Irish backstop.
In a joint statement after the meeting, both leaders reconfirmed “their commitment to avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland and to respect the integrity of the EU’s internal market and of the UK”. Their discussions covered which guarantees could be given that the backstop would be temporary and the role alternative arrangements could play in replacing the backstop in the future.
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.
At yesterday’s press briefing in Brussels, the chief spokesperson for the European Commission described the meeting as part of the permanent contacts between Juncker and May but hinted that it had taken place at the request of May. Asked to comment on a remark by Juncker that the meeting would be “unproductive” he sticked to his policy not to interpret the Commission president.
He also declined to respond to questions whether EU should prepare itself for a no-deal scenario. EU is continuing its contingency plans for a hard Brexit by preparing a number of legislative proposals.
But facing the consequence of a no-deal scenario, a last-minute deal that looks similar to the one already negotiated cannot be excluded.