Brussels “monster” Martin Selmayr lashed out at Brexiteers and claimed “nobody is considering” legally binding changes to the divorce deal. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel signalled she was ready to find a compromise. The EU powerhouse insisted it was time to be “creative” and said an agreement can be reached if everyone “shows good will”. Mrs Merkel said: “There are definitely options for preserving the integrity of the single market even when Northern Ireland isn’t part of it because it is part of Britain while at the same time meeting the desire to have, if possible, no border controls.
“To solve this point you have to be creative and listen to each other, and such discussions can and must be conducted.
“We can still use the time to perhaps reach an agreement if everyone shows good will.”
The divisions between two of the most powerful figures in the EU reveal the growing tensions between premiers, whose countries face being hit if Britain leaves the bloc without a deal, and the Eurocrats who want to protect the Brussels project.
Poland has repeatedly called for action to end the deadlock as exit day approaches.
Splits emerged after the Commons Brexit committee decamped to Brussels for talks with Mr Selmayr.
MPs said they were told that Brussels will eventually row back on its threats not to reopen Theresa May’s divorce deal to tackle fears about the backstop to prevent a hard Irish border.
Officials are planning on “copy and pasting” assurances by EU chiefs Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker into a legally-binding protocol, the committee was told.
The addition of fresh guarantees is unlikely to satisfy Tory Eurosceptics demanding the removal of the backstop from the text.
But Mr Selmayr, the European Commission Secretary-General, dismissed suggestions the even that concession could be achieved.
The EU powerbroker, Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s key ally, said “nobody is considering” reopening the exit deal.
“The meeting confirmed that the EU did well to start its no deal preparations in December 2017,” he added.
And Mr Selmayr, nicknamed the “the monster” in Brussels, dismissed claims he had seized control of the negotiations as “Brexiteers’ propaganda”.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier also insisted the withdrawal agreement “cannot be reopened” and said the backstop was the “only operational solution”.
Ireland’s deputy prime minister Simon Coveney said Dublin would not back down in the standoff over the backstop.
He said: “What Ireland is being asked to do by some in Westminster is to essentially do away with an agreed solution between the UK Government and EU negotiators and to replace it with wishful thinking and I think that’s a very unreasonable request to ask the Irish Government to be flexible on.
“So if there are alternative arrangements that can work the current protocol, if people take the time to read it, takes account of that and it says very clearly that the backstop can be replaced by alternative arrangements as long as they work. So while the Prime Minister I’m sure is talking to colleagues in her own party and across Government that’s a matter for her.
“Our positioning is clear. We have a pragmatic solution that we know will work, it was agreed with the British Government and we expect them to follow through on that commitment.”
Brexiteer Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns, part of the delegation in Brussels, said Mr Selmayr revealed there “has been no request to reopen negations by the British Government”.