The Latest: Spanish minister says no new agreement on Brexit

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on Brexit negotiations (all times local):

2:30 p.m.

Spain’s foreign minister says the European Union is willing to carry on talks in order to persuade Britain of the advantages of its deal to leave the bloc, but that there cannot be a new agreement.

Josep Borrell said after talks with his Cypriot counterpart Wednesday that “we can talk and try to add words” to drive home the bloc’s good faith.

He said that the existing agreement is the best one and that there won’t be another.

Borrell said the process is nearing its end and that it wouldn’t be good for the U.K. to stay in the bloc but wanting to leave and “unable to find the door.”

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1:50 p.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says her government hasn’t decided exactly how it will try to change the European Union divorce deal to address concerns about the Irish border.

Parliament voted Tuesday to replace a border measure in the agreement with unspecified “alternative arrangements.” Many U.K. lawmakers fear the “backstop” measure — designed to ensure the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland remains free of customs checks — will trap Britain in regulatory lockstep with the EU.

Asked in the House of Commons on Wednesday what alternatives Britain was proposing, May said “there are a number of proposals for how that could be done.” She said measures under consideration included a unilateral exit mechanism for Britain, a time limit to the backstop and “mutual recognition and trusted trader schemes.”

The EU insists the withdrawal deal can’t be renegotiated.

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1:30 p.m.

The European Union is taking measures to protect university students involved in the Erasmus exchange program in case the United Kingdom crashes out of the EU on March 29 without a deal in place.

EU Commission vice president Frans Timmermans announced proposals to enable the 14,000 EU students in Britain and the 7,000 UK students in the 27 remaining member states to finish their work “without interruption” despite Brexit.

The Erasmus program on student exchanges across the EU has been one of the most popular initiatives of the bloc.

The EU has started taking contingency measures to make sure a possible no-deal departure would be as smooth as possible, even though it acknowledges it will still be very fractious.

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12:25 p.m.

Germany’s foreign minister says Berlin is willing to continue talks with Britain but is emphasizing the current Brexit agreement is the best one available.

Heiko Maas told the Funke newspaper group Wednesday it is important that British lawmakers have spoken out against a no-agreement departure from the European Union, saying that is in nobody’s interest.

But he called for clarity on how Britain wants to change the so-called “backstop,” the safeguard mechanism proposed to regulate the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland after Brexit.

He says Germany is open to talks, “but our position is clear: the withdrawal agreement is the best and only solution for an orderly exit. Regarding the backstop, Germany and the entire Union are firmly on Ireland’s side. We will not allow Ireland to be isolated on this issue.”

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12:05 p.m.

The European Parliament’s chief Brexit official has derided the British political process on Brexit and insisted that the United Kingdom finally needs to get its act together and come with credible proposals on how to leave the European Union.

After Tuesday’s long session at the House of Commons which tasked Prime Minister Theresa May to go back to Brussels and seek a better exit deal, the 27 other EU nations and the European parliament have stood united in stressing that a renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement they clinched with May is out of the question.

Guy Verhofstadt said Wednesday he was getting increasingly frustrated with the political proceedings in London where a strong single voice has yet to emerge.

“What needs to stop is this: an amendment with 10 votes for, then an amendment with 10 votes against, an amendment that barely pulls through, one that fails,” he said of Tuesday’s session, which saw seven Brexit amendments of which two were passed.

“That is no way to build a future relationship with the EU,” Verhofstadt said.

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9:55 a.m.

The European Union’s Brexit negotiator says the EU stands united in defense of its divorce deal with Britain, after Prime Minister Theresa won a parliamentary mandate to reopen the agreement.

Michel Barnier said Wednesday that “the EU institutions remain united, and we stand by the agreement that we have negotiated with the U.K., never against the U.K.”

Barnier made his brief remarks after he met top European Parliament officials to discuss the Brexit votes in the British Parliament late Tuesday.

Britain is set to leave the EU in less than two months, but the main sticking point in London to sealing a Brexit agreement is the so-called “backstop.”

It’s aimed at ensuring that no time-consuming customs checks happen on the Irish border after Britain leaves, until a better arrangement is found.

Categories: International News