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Tuesday December 10th, 2019 9:47PM

The Latest: EU chief says he's seeking Brexit breakthrough

By The Associated Press
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LONDON (AP) — The Latest on Brexit (all times local):

3:55 p.m.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker says he is working with EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to find a way to end a stalemate with Britain's government over a Brexit agreement.

Juncker told the European Parliament on Wednesday: "Personally, I don't exclude a deal. Michel and myself are working on a deal."

He refused to be more specific but made clear that talks between the two sides haven't come to an irreparable standstill.

But Juncker noted the government in London would be eager to blame Brussels for a complete negotiations breakdown.

He said: "We are not accepting this blame game that started in London."

Barnier says British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's recent proposals were fundamentally flawed on dealing with the border on the island of Ireland and giving the regional authorities in Northern Ireland a veto on how to proceed.

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3:30 p.m.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman says Germany hasn't changed its stance on Brexit and still intends to work "until the last possible point" to secure an orderly British withdrawal from the European Union.

Steffen Seibert stuck to his position that Berlin won't comment on details of a phone conversation between Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday. Downing Street said Merkel had told Johnson that "a deal is overwhelmingly unlikely" unless the U.K. agrees to let Northern Ireland continue to follow EU customs rules in order to maintain an open border with EU member Ireland.

Seibert told reporters in Berlin that "we do not have a new position on Brexit — neither the chancellor nor the German government.

"It is as we have always said: the German government will work until the last possible point for a solution so that we achieve an orderly withdrawal of Britain from the European Union and can avoid a no-deal Brexit ... because that is certainly the worst scenario for all concerned."

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12:30 p.m.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier continues to believe that a Brexit deal with the United Kingdom remains possible, despite the massive gap in their negotiating positions ahead of the fast-approaching deadline.

Barnier said Wednesday that "the deal is possible and very difficult, but possible."

Barnier said it was essential for negotiators to keep a cool head in such stressful times. He says "the EU will remain calm, vigilant, respectful and constructive."

Barnier will meet with U.K. Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay in Brussels on Thursday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on Oct. 31, without or without a divorce deal.

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11:50 a.m.

A Scottish court has decided for now against ordering British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to write a letter asking the European Union to delay Brexit.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh says there's no need to make a ruling yet because the government has promised to comply with a law ordering it to seek a delay if no divorce deal has been agreed by Oct. 19.

Many members of Britain's Parliament are determined to prevent a no-deal Brexit, which economists say would plunge the U.K. economy into recession. Last month, they passed a law requiring the government to postpone Brexit rather than leave without a deal on the scheduled Oct. 31 departure date.

Anti-Brexit campaigners fear Johnson will try to wriggle out of that requirement, and asked Scotland's highest court to order the government to comply.

The judges said "the situation remains fluid" and they will wait until Oct. 22 to make a ruling.

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11:15 a.m.

A group of anti-Brexit activists have staged a protest at the European Commission's headquarters in Brussels asking for the European Union to reject British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's proposals for his country's planned exit from the bloc.

Amid anti-Brexit slogans and chants of "Stop Brexit!", a few dozen protesters from Britain and Italy gathered in front of the Berlaymont building as talks continued between EU and British officials aimed at avoiding a no-deal Brexit.

Emmanuel Hemmings, a 45-year-old Briton from the West Midlands, told The Associated Press: "We expect the EU to say that Johnson's proposals don't make sense and should not be pursued. The whole thing is nonsense."

The activists are calling for a second referendum on Brexit. Hemmings said "we represent more people than the original referendum, now we want a referendum on the actual reality."

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10:40 a.m.

The European Union's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will be meeting with U.K. Brexit envoy Stephen Barclay on Thursday as both sides are saying that the chances of reaching a divorce deal look increasingly slim.

EU and U.K. negotiators have been meeting at technical level this week and Barclay's visit comes in the wake of a series of acrimonious comments from both sides on the state of relations.

The EU has said that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson needs to have workable proposals by the end of the week if there is to be any chance of a breakthrough at the Oct. 17-18 EU summit.

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8:35 a.m.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar says big gaps remain between Britain and the European Union as they try to secure a Brexit deal.

As chances of a breakthrough before next week's crucial EU summit recede, Varadkar says fundamental objectives haven't changed and that Ireland can't accept a deal at any cost.

Varadkar, in an interview with Irish broadcaster RTE, said Tuesday night that the U.K. is repudiating "the deal that we negotiated in good faith with Prime Minister (Theresa) May's government over two years and sort of put half of that now back on the table and are saying, 'That's a concession'. And, of course, it isn't really."

The comments contradict British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office, which said EU intransigence had led to a breakdown in negotiations.

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Follow AP's full coverage of Brexit and British politics at https://www.apnews.com/Brexit

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