May said she would prefer an arrangement where Britain strikes its own independent trade deals, rather than having a say on those negotiated by the bloc.
Barnier met with his British opposite number, Brexit Minister Stephen Barclay, on Monday evening in a meeting that Barnier labeled as “constructive.” It was the first time that the chief negotiators from both sides will have met since the terms of a deal were finalized November. Barclay is the third Brexit Minister in three years, and only took over the post in November after Dominic Raab resigned in protest at the terms of the draft deal.
That agreement would have seen Britain temporarily stay in the EUCU to prevent the need for a hard customs border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic — the UK’s only land border with the EU. The two sides agreed on a so-called “backstop” — a guarantee that the UK would remain in the EUCU (or something very similar) until a working alternative could be found.
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However, this has proved unpopular with many of Theresa May’s own Conservative Party members of parliament and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which aims to protect the province’s status as an integral part of the UK. The deal was roundly rejected by MPs in January.
With both sides eager to avoid a no-deal Brexit, the current legal default position if no agreement is struck, Britain is currently set to leave the EU on March 29.
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