October 9, 2019 / 10:19 AM / 11 days ago

EU has no breakthrough Brexit offer, sources say after Times report

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly near the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 4, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union officials denied on Wednesday that Brussels was preparing a major concession to Britain to secure a Brexit deal.

The Times newspaper reported on Wednesday that the EU was ready to offer a mechanism for the Northern Irish assembly to leave a new so-called Ireland backstop after a number of years.

“Unfortunately, no bold new offer is coming from the EU side at this stage,” said one official, while stressing that the bloc was not closing the door to more talks with Britain.

Another EU official dealing with Brexit said when asked if the EU was indeed ready to make such a step: “I did not hear that.”

The officials said the bloc felt the gap was too big between both sides’ stance on the customs arrangements after Brexit to offer any breakthroughs on the Northern Irish element of the puzzle and go for a deal now.

They said the bloc was ready to work on giving Northern Irish authorities more say after Brexit but were against the way this mechanism has been devised in the latest British proposals.

A senior EU diplomat in Brussels added on the Times report that as far as they knew, it was not true: “We don’t know where that story came from.”

A second diplomat dismissed the report as spin, saying that this has not been discussed in talks between Brtian’s Brexit negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, John Chalmers; editing by John Stonestreet and Angus MacSwan

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