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Still no viable Brexit proposals from the UK after talks: EU

Both sides however agree that talks "needed to intensify", with daily meetings between officials

The first face-to-face encounter between Mr Johnson (left) and Mr Juncker failed to yield any major breakthrough, although Downing Street insisted it had been a "constructive meeting".


BRITAIN has still not proposed any workable alternatives to the Northern Ireland "backstop" provisions of its Brexit withdrawal agreement, the EU said Monday after talks between bloc chief Jean-Claude Juncker and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The first face-to-face encounter between Mr Johnson and European Commission president Mr Juncker failed to yield any major breakthrough, although Downing Street insisted it had been a "constructive meeting".

Mr Johnson and Mr Juncker however agreed that Brexit talks "needed to intensify", with daily meetings between officials, Downing Street added.

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Mr Johnson said Britain will not agree to a divorce deal that includes the backstop, a provision which temporarily keeps the UK in the EU customs union to keep the Irish border open, and will not delay Brexit beyond Oct 31, even if it means leaving with no deal.

Mr Juncker's office said he used the lunch meeting in Luxembourg to reiterate the EU view that it is Britain's responsibility to come up with a workable alternative to the backstop, which was agreed by Mr Johnson's predecessor Theresa May but rejected by MPs.

"President Juncker recalled that it is the UK's responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions that are compatible with the Withdrawal Agreement," a statement from Mr Juncker's office said.

"President Juncker underlined the Commission's continued willingness and openness to examine whether such proposals meet the objectives of the backstop. Such proposals have not yet been made." Alongside the main meeting, EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier also held talks with UK Brexit Minister Stephen Barclay.

A small but noisy clutch of anti-Brexit protesters greeted Mr Johnson as he arrived and left the talks, singing the "Ode to Joy" EU anthem, waving flags and chanting slogans.

With just six weeks to go before Brexit day, the two sides have agreed to step up the pace of talks, Downing Street said, with negotiators to start meeting "soon" on a daily basis rather than twice a week as at present.

"It was agreed that talks should also take place at a political level between Michel Barnier and the Brexit Secretary, and conversations would also continue between President Juncker and the prime minister," a spokesperson said.

The UK's top market watchdog has warned that equity markets will face significant damage in a no-deal Brexit unless the European Union reverses a plan to block traders in its home territory from using London exchanges.

Andrew Bailey, the Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA) chief executive, called on the EU to urgently rethink its position before Oct 31, when Britain is scheduled to leave with or without a deal. Trading in a large number of European shares will be harmed, he said in a speech on Monday in which he called for a new round of talks with European counterparts to prevent a rupture in markets.

Mr Bailey added that some shares would face dual, conflicting obligations because of the overlap between UK and EU rules. "It is therefore easy to conclude that for those shares, market liquidity would be damaged to no good end," he said in prepared remarks published Monday.

The European Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) stood by its previous statements. David Cliffe, a spokesman for the regulator, said the so-called share trading obligation (STO) would come into play if the Commission does not deem the UK's rules to be equivalent to its own. "ESMA has been clear about its approach to the STO in such a situation, providing clarity to market participants in May, giving them time to prepare for such an outcome, and would welcome the FCA providing similar clarity too," said Mr Cliffe by email. AFP, REUTERS