European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and UK Prime Minister Theresa May met on Wednesday for what was described as a constructive discussion but ended without any significant breakthrough.
The two leaders, who will meet again before the end of the month, agreed that the talks had been constructive and the two urged their negotiating teams to continue to explore options in a positive spirit ahead of the UK’s scheduled withdrawal from the EU on March 29.
During the meeting, Juncker and May talked of the tight timeframe before Brexit becomes a reality as well as the historic significance of guiding the EU and UK on a path towards a deep and unique future partnership.
The two leaders are, reportedly, exploring ‘guarantees’ that address the contentious so-called ‘backstop’ agreement for Northern Ireland, which will a part of the post-Brexit United Kingdom.
An alternative to the Single Market called ‘Max Fac’ seems to have found its way into the future relationship. Max Fac, which stands for ‘maximum facilitation’, is the application of new technologies and “trusted trader” schemes to remove the need for actual customs checks at the border between Northern Ireland and EU member, Ireland.
If the new scheme is applied, UK companies would only need to pay duties every few months rather than every time goods or services cross the Northern Ireland-Ireland border.
May said she had taken note of the EU’s position and, notably, the letter sent by [European Council] President Donald Tusk and Juncker on January 14. Her comments suggest that May is looking into empowering the Political Declaration text, as the EU leaders have repeatedly suggested, as this will most likely political path that could lead to a deal that would receive enough support in the British parliament.