May, Juncker and Barnier at the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels on February 07. © European Union , 2019 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service.
Negotiations between the UK and EU on the Brexit deal will be reopened following a meeting between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
Following talks, described as robust but constructive, both parties agreed to hold talks "as to whether a way through can be found that would gain the broadest possible support in the UK Parliament and respect the guidelines agreed by the European Council."
May and Juncker will meet again before the end of February to take stock of these discussions.
That May was able to get negotiations underway once more will be seen as a win for the Prime Minister who won't be heading back to London empty handed.
The Sun's Political Editor Tom Newton-Dunn meanwhile reports "I hear Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay will meet Michel Barnier in Strasbourg on Monday to begin a new backstop negotiation."
If confirmed, this report is significant, with one political pundit suggesting the EU are blinking.
The Pound is seen trading higher following the reports as they signal to markets that in all likelihood Article 50 will have to be extended and the date of Brexit therefore delayed. This in turn suggests the scope for a 'no deal' Brexit has diminished somewhat, and moves in Sterling appear to be almost exclusively based on where the dial on the 'deal' or 'no deal' barometer is pointing.
Markets will however keep an eye on May's next meetings, which include European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and the Parliament's Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt. From there, she moves to the Europa building to meet European Council President Donald Tusk.
May is in Brussels with the view of seeking substantial changes to the Irish backstop contained within the Withdrawal Agreement of the Brexit deal after the UK parliament earlier this month passed a resolution requiring May to seek such changes.
Indications from the European Union suggest they will give further guarantees that the use of the backstop will be time limited, but at this stage it is unknown as to whether such guarantees will come with legal force. We know Brexiteers in the UK parliament want the backstop removed from the Withdrawal Agreement completely if they are to back the deal. We know some will be happy to have a legal guarantee that the backstop will be time limited and cannot endure indefinitely.
To us it looks like May won't be able to win over the votes of the more ardent Brexit purists, rather she will be hoping to win over a good swathe of opponents to the deal from her own party and a chunk of Labour party MPs.
Juncker told May the 585-page draft withdrawal treaty was not open for renegotiation after the prime minister “raised various options” for seeking alternative arrangements over the so-called Irish backstop, a guarantee against a hard border on the island of Ireland that Brexiters fear will “trap” the UK indefinitely in a customs union with Brussels.
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