There is still time to find a solution to Britain's exit from the EU, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday, voicing optimism on a political deal over the tricky "backstop" that has stymied progress.
Meanwhile, EU yesterdays said its President Jean-Claude Juncker will meet Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May today to find a way to save the Brexit deal.
Plans for Britain to leave the bloc on March 29 under a withdrawal agreement signed last year were thrown into doubt when British lawmakers rejected the accord.
Brussels is now waiting for May to formally request renewed talks, while warning that the agreement itself can not at this stage be reopened for discussion.
"While the commission's position is clear, we are waiting to see what the prime minister has to say," Juncker's spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters at his daily briefing Tuesday.
The House of Commons last month overwhelmingly rejected the Brexit deal that May had negotiated with the EU over almost two years.
In a subsequent vote, a majority of MPs urged her to renegotiate the most controversial part of the agreement, the "backstop" arrangement intended to keep open the border between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.
Speaking to Japanese and German business leaders in Tokyo, Merkel stressed that "on the one hand, time is pressing" and businesses using "just-in-time" delivery processes could not afford lengthy customs procedures.
However, she added: "From a political point of view, there is still time. Two months is not a long time but there is still time, and this should be used by all sides."
Merkel acknowledged the issue of Northern Ireland backstop provision was "complicating" Brexit talks. She said the issue with the backstop was a "problem that is precisely defined and therefore one should be able to find a precisely defined solution".