Brexit

Verhofstadt dismissed claims that the UK was heading for a no deal

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s representative in the Brexit negotiations, arrives at 10 Downing Street, London, for a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday PICTURE: Jonathan Brady/PA

The EU agrees with the British government that a solution to the Irish border issue would be found through an agreement on a post-Brexit relationship, according to

No 10.

Prime Minister Theresa May met the European Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt after talking with ministerial colleagues.

The meeting was described by the Belgian politician as

an “open and honest exchange” on the progress of negotiations.

As her arrived for the talks Mr Verhofstadt dismissed claims that the UK was heading for a no deal.

Downing Street said the pair discussed the future economic partnership and the Northern Ireland backstop, with Mrs May stressing the need to ensure frictionless trade between the EU and the UK and maintain the constitutional integrity of the UK.

The prime minister had earlier told Cabinet colleagues to hold their nerve after Brexit negotiations hit a difficult stage in the wake of the rejection of her plans by EU leaders at Salzburg.

Mrs May said she remained confident of securing a withdrawal agreement with the EU, but that the government would continue to plan for the possibility of no deal.

The meeting came as the Department for Exiting the EU (Dexeu) released guidance for UK businesses and households preparing for a no-deal Brexit, which warned of possible disruption to flights

and coach services to the continent.

There is likely to be a lengthy inquest into what went wrong at last week's informal EU summit in Salzburg where Mrs May was bluntly told key elements of the Chequers plan would not work.

The prime minister insists her proposal, which would see Britain maintain a “common rulebook” with the EU for trade in goods and agriculture, is the only credible option on the table, which would avoid the return of a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Mrs May's spokesman ruled out moving towards a Canada-style deal, saying: “Given a standard free trade agreement could not prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, the EU's position is that their proposed Northern Ireland protocol would come into effect.

“So, the FTA would only apply to the Great Britain-EU relationship, with Northern Ireland effectively remaining in parts of the single market and customs union.

“The PM has repeatedly set out that we must protect the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom as a whole.”

Downing Street said Mrs May told Cabinet to hold its nerve in the wake of Salzburg.

The PM said it was always clear there would come a critical point in the negotiations, adding: “Now is the time to hold our nerve.”

Mrs May said the government's White Paper remains the only plan on the table, which achieves the goals of frictionless trade and an open border in Ireland.

She said she remained confident of securing a deal with the EU, but the government would continue to sensibly plan for no deal.

Mrs May said the UK was looking to the EU to match her promise that expat citizens' rights will be protected in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Among guidance for no-deal planning included in the latest slew of Dexeu documents were warnings that:

n Passengers could face flight disruption if new permissions are not granted

n Bus and coach services to European Union countries could be suspended

n Chemical firms would need new registrations to continue exporting to EEA nations

n Pet owners could have to make preparations with their vets four months in advance of a trip to Europe

n Dozens of British traditional foods from Stilton cheese to Cornish clotted cream may be forced to apply for new protected status from the EU.

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