British Prime Minister Theresa May tried to break the deadlock over Brexit on Wednesday by thrashing out alternative proposals for the Irish border with political parties in Northern Ireland.
The UK is on course to leave the EU on March 29 without a deal unless May can convince the bloc to reopen the divorce deal she agreed in November and then sell it to skeptical British lawmakers.
As companies and governments across Europe step up preparations for the turmoil of a no-deal exit, diplomats and officials said the UK now faces three main options: A no-deal exit, a last-minute deal or a delay to Brexit.
At meetings in Belfast, May tried to tackle the biggest obstacle to getting a deal ratified by the British parliament – an insurance policy covering the possible future arrangements for the border between EU-member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.
“We will find a way to deliver Brexit that honors our commitments to Northern Ireland,” the prime minister said on Tuesday.
May said she would seek an alternative arrangement which avoids the need for a hard border or legally binding changes to the border backstop to introduce a time limit or create an exit mechanism.
May discussed putting a time limit on the so-called Irish border backstop in talks with Northern Ireland’s Ulster Unionist Party, the party’s leader said on Wednesday.
“She spoke to us today about putting a time limit on the backstop. We don’t see a time limit as being the answer, because time limit can be extended,” Robin Swann said after the meeting, adding that it was just one of the options raised by May.
“While she seems to be talking about looking at alternative arrangements, her reluctance to move past the 29th of March, I think is going to put a lot of pressure on what Westminster can do.”