On Monday, the Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, met with the Dutch foreign minister, Stef Blok, who tweeted: “Frank & honest discussion today with Steve Barclay. As good neighbours do.
“Important questions still remain on UK Brexit proposals and more realism and clarity necessary this week. Full support for Michel Barnier.”
An EU commission spokeswoman said the EU27 remained of the opinion that the UK had failed to offer an alternative to the Irish backstop, which would avoid a hard border by keeping Northern Ireland in the single market and the EU’s customs territory.
She said: “We all agree that we need a workable solution now and not something based on untried and revokable arrangements that would be left to negotiation during the transition period.
“The UK’s proposals do not meet at present the objectives of the protocol on Northern Ireland/Ireland and this is the shared view of the EU parliament but also all member states.”
The British government’s refusal to share the detailed legal text beyond the small circle of EU negotiators has infuriated diplomats and sowed confusion about the UK’s intentions on key points, such as the transition extension.
Under the current agreement the UK could extend the transition until the end of 2022, if both sides agree, but the UK is seeking to drop a reference in the Irish protocol to such an extension.
Some EU diplomats suspect the change is presentational, to match the government’s insistence it can get a speedy agreement on a future trade deal. The Guardian understands that the UK does not intend to drop the transition extension from the withdrawal agreement.
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