BRUSSELS snubbed an offer to negotiate Boris Johnson’s Brexit proposals through the weekend – as EU diplomats said the two sides are still “miles apart”.
Casting a pessimistic assessment on the state of negotiations, the EU Commission said the PM’s new Brexit proposals “do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement”.
The only glimmer of hope for the talks came from Ireland’s deputy PM Simon Coveney, who said he still believed it would be possible to get a deal this month – but only if Britain shifts its demands.
Speaking in Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland, he said: “I believe that the British Prime Minister wants to get a deal this month. We will certainly work to that time frame if the British position evolves and we want to be helpful on that.
“I don’t think we should give up on that.”
UK chief negotiator David Frost travelled to Brussels to brief his counterparts about the details of Mr Johnson’s new blueprint and in another olive branch he offered to stay in the Belgian capital to negotiate throughout the weekend.
But the EU rejected the offer because they saw little point in holding them if the UK refused to shift its position – describing the offer as a “trap”.
An EU source accused the UK of only asking to sit through the weekend to make them look bad – knowing full well they would turn them down.
Instead negotiations will start again on Monday but last night the talks were in crisis mode.
A senior EU diplomat told The Sun that the two sides were “miles apart,” adding: “If we held talks at the weekend it would look like these were proper negotiations.
“The truth is we’re still a long way from that. We need to work out quickly whether there is the opportunity to close the gap.”
An EU source said: “The UK often asks for meetings to keep the process going and we agree we should leave no stone unturned.
“But there is nothing useful that could be done this weekend. We have done many weekends with the UK. We are ready to do that again, but there is simply no need now.”
A UK government spokesman said: “We have made a significant offer this week. Our proposals represent a fair and reasonable compromise. We want a deal and talks continue on Monday on the basis of our offer.
“Everybody must understand however that there is no path to a deal without replacing the backstop.
“If the EU also want a deal they must recognise this and work with us at pace to agree a new deal.”
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