More time needed for Brexit negotiations, Dutch FM says

Minister Stef Blok of Foreign Affairs does not expect that the European Union and United Kingdom will reach a political agreement on the  on Wednesday. "More time is needed to complete those negotiations successfully. At the same time the risk remains that it will not work", he said on Tuesday evening after after a meeting of Foreign Ministers and EU-Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, NOS reports.

On Wednesday the leaders of the EU Member States will meet in Luxembourg to discuss the Brexit and to decide whether enough progress has been made in the negotiations to hold a special EU-Brexit summit next month. The United Kingdom is leaving the EU on March 29th next year.

According to Blok, the biggest stumbling block in the negotiations is still the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. European Council president Donald Tusk described the issue as a Gordian knot, according to the broadcaster. He called British Prime Minister Theresa May to come up with "creative solutions", but also made it clear that he does not see how she can force a breakthrough in her own country. May is dealing with divisions in her own cabinet and dissent in parliament. Belgian minister Didier Reynders said that sometimes it feels "like the British are negotiating with the British".

During the Foreign Ministers meeting on Tuesday, negotiator Barnier said that intensive negotiations took place over the past weeks. Blok called an agreement of great importance, but once again said that the Netherlands is preparing for the worst - a so-called 'hard' or 'no-deal' Brexit in which the UK leaves the EU without any agreements on trade or movement in place. According to Blok a hard Brexit for the UK and the EU, but he added that "the quality of the agreement is more important" than making an agreement in one day. 

When asked what Blok would report to Prime Minister Mark Rutte with a view on Wednesday's meeting in Luxembourg, he said to NOS: "That the situation is as complicated as it is, that we have the interests that we both obviously know very well, and that we should not let ourselves be riled up needlessly."

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