Economy

United Kingdom rules out Japan free trade deal ahead of Brexit deadline

United Kingdom rules out Japan free trade deal ahead of Brexit deadline

"May is responsible for this injury on my face", Juncker said before welcoming the prime minister to Brussels during a stilted ceremony that did not include a kiss or a handshake like previous occasions.

May needs to convince eurosceptics in her Conservative Party that the backstop will not keep Britain indefinitely tied to the European Union, but also that she is still considering a compromise idea agreed between Brexit supporters and pro-EU lawmakers.

May met with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday hoping for movement on the contentious backstop, as fears grow Britain could crash out of the bloc without a deal on March 29.

He added: "The worst can be avoided but I'm not very optimistic when it comes to this issue".

But EU officials are still preparing for the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, according to Bloomberg, with a three-month extension their "most optimistic scenario".

Mrs May was in Brussels last night for further talks with Mr Juncker in yet another attempt to wrestle concessions out of the EU.

"We can not accept a time limit to the backstop or a unilateral exit clause", he said.

Separately, European Council President Donald Tusk said the Brexit negotiations might be extended if the United Kingdom fails to work out a sensible deal.

May and the other 27 European Union leaders approved a Brexit withdrawal agreement at a summit on November 25 past year, but the British parliament voted against it overwhelmingly on January 15. "Each time that the prime minister expresses her wish to come we will always be happy to listen to her and see what she has to say", the Commission chief said.

European Commission president Mr Juncker said he could not rule out an extension to the Article 50 process resulting in the United Kingdom participating in the European Parliament vote.

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Theresa May and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hailed "constructive" talks in Brussels last night despite the EU's continued insistence that no changes could be made to the Brexit deal agreed previous year.

"We agreed to keep exploring the use of alternative arrangements - especially how they might be developed to ensure the absence of a hard border in Northern Ireland on a permanent footing, avoiding the need for the backstop to ever enter force". "That is why we are determined to get no deal off the table".

Chuka Umunna, who quit Labour on Monday to join the new Independent Group of MPs, said: "During the referendum Brexiteers repeatedly promised that a raft of trade deals would be fully negotiated and ready to be implemented by exit day".

"It was agreed that talks should now continue urgently at a technical level".

Around 20 European Union leaders are expected to take part, including German chancellor Angela Merkel and Irish premier Leo Varadkar, and Mrs May is expected to hold a series of one-to-one meetings on the margins of the main summit.

Mr Hammond said the PM's ability to put her deal to another "meaningful vote" ahead of the next Commons showdown will "depend on (the) progress that is made over the next few days".

Britain's foreign secretary said that securing an orderly Brexit is "of paramount importance" as he visited Germany on Wednesday, and insisted the United Kingdom can leave the European Union on March 29 as planned if a compromise deal is found.

May wants to change the deal's phrasing to make sure that the mechanism to ensure an open Irish border after Brexit would only apply temporarily.

Ireland's tax authority said on Wednesday that there had been a dramatic surge in traders applying for a key registration number that will allow them to trade with the United Kingdom after Brexit.