The U.K. and the EU will now negotiate “continuously” in pursuit of a Brexit withdrawal deal, the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his opposite number Dominic Raab said.
Speaking to the press after a meeting in Brussels Tuesday, Barnier said the negotiations were now entering their “final stage” and pledged regular meetings with Raab. The U.K. Brexit secretary said their next meeting would be next week.
However, both negotiators said that reaching an agreement on a backstop proposal for avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland remained an obstacle to a successful deal. Barnier added that the two sides also needed to make progress on agreeing a framework for the future economic relationship that respected the rules of the single market. He reiterated that some of the U.K.’s proposals in their Brexit white paper “contradict” his negotiating guidelines.
Raab agreed that there were “still some significant issues to overcome” and that it was important to view the withdrawal deal and the future relationship framework, which will be outlined in a political declaration alongside the deal, “as a package.”
Barnier added that October may not be the absolute deadline for a deal, but insisted there must be agreement “well before the end of the year” pointing to the “beginning of November, but not much later than that,” to give the U.K. and the EU time to ratify the deal before the U.K.’s scheduled departure date of March 29, 2019.
On Wednesday, the talks will continue amongst lower level officials on the future relationship and also include discussion of remaining issues to be included in the withdrawal agreement.