Clock ticking: Decision time, not extra time, EU Brexit negotiator says

Former Prime Minister of Portugal Jose Manuel Barroso called on the EU to compromise

Former Prime Minister of Portugal Jose Manuel Barroso called on the EU to compromise Credit Julian Simmonds TMG

With just five weeks to go until Brexit on March 29, the deal has been blocked by the British parliament and the country appears headed for a chaotic exit that economists warn will wreak havoc in both Britain and the European Union.

With 37 days left until Brexit, sterling rose on a Bloomberg report that cited Spain's foreign minister as saying a revised Brexit accord was being hammered out.

The British parliament is braced for a showdown next week over a potential no-deal Brexit - which many MPs oppose and want to block, but the government has refused to rule out.

With just 36 days to go until the official Leave date of 29 March, the statement said that the pair meant to "review progress again in the coming days" - suggesting that there had been no breakthrough.

"We are increasingly alarmed at the risks".

The progress in Brussels comes as problems mount domestically for the premier with lawmakers quitting her party and ministers plotting to challenge her in a crunch vote next week. But it could be revived as part of future negotiations over the long-term trade deal with the European Union, according to government officials who asked not to be named. May is now seeking legal guarantees to ensure the backstop can only be temporary.

Anti-Brexit demonstrators are seen with placards protesting outside the Houses of Parliament, London, UK, Feb. 14, 2019.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Cox is drawing up plans for a unilateral exit mechanism from the backstop with a 12-week notice period.

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Mr Baker said it was now possible that Tory eurosceptics in the influential European Research Group, of which he is deputy chairman, would back Mrs May's Withdrawal Agreement, after helping to vote it down by a massive margin last month.

On Tuesday, the EU responded to United Kingdom demands again: "The EU 27 will not reopen the withdrawal agreement; we can not accept a time limit to the backstop or a unilateral exit clause", said Margaritis Schinas, a spokesman for Juncker.

"The two leaders agreed that talks had been constructive, and they urged their respective teams to continue to explore the options in a positive spirit".

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".

He outlined his proposal that Britain should enter a customs union with the bloc when it leaves - an idea unacceptable to many Brexit supporters who say it would tie London's hands on trade deals.

"It is also clear that members of our group are growing increasingly frustrated by the intransigence - as they see it - of some of our colleagues, many of whom represent very safe seats and are thus unlikely to be unduly inconvenienced by all of this".

"Whilst we fully expect some changes to the backstop arrangements to be made by ministers in Brussels this week, there remains a chance that these will not satisfy some colleagues".

Mrs May is eager to get movement on the backstop issue before the Brexit issue returns to the Commons for a series of votes on February 27. Some lawmakers are expected to use that to try to wrest control of the process from the government.

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