Brexit talks continued in Europe on Wednesday as leaders met in both Brussels and Belfast.
The UK is due to leave the European Union on March 29, just over 50 days away, and no plans are currently in place to dictate its terms.
The EU had negotiated and presented a Brexit plan, but it was not agreed upon in the UK Parliament.
The main sticking point is the issue of a backstop - the mechanism to ensure no hard border will be implemented between Ireland and Northern Ireland - which has the UK and the EU in a deadlock.
Many in the UK want “alternative arrangements” for the backstop, while the EU maintains this is too vague.
Taoiseach meets with EU leaders in Brussels
After meetings involving Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, EU President Donald Tusk made it clear that the EU stands resolutely with Ireland and will work to prevent a no-deal scenario on March 29.
Today our most important task is to prevent a no deal #Brexit. I hope that tomorrow we will hear from PM @theresa_may a realistic suggestion on how to end the impasse. https://t.co/ko9UGhtaJd pic.twitter.com/Rm9fNXwyks— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) February 6, 2019
Afterward, in a press conference, Tusk didn't hold back in his frustrations: “I’ve been wondering what that place in hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan for how to carry it out safely.”
“We will not gamble on peace or put a sell-by date on reconciliation. And this is why we insist on the backstop,” said Tusk.
“The EU 27 will not be making any new offer.”
“The top priority for us remains the issue of the border on the island of Ireland and the guarantee to maintain the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.”
Juncker said that the Withdrawal Agreement already agreed upon by the EU is not upon for renegotiation.
He added: “The backstop is a guarantee for Ireland and it is a guarantee for the European Union because the Irish border is a European border.”
Following their meetings, Varadkar expressed his gratitude for the EU’s solidarity with Ireland: “As a leader of a small country that is fully committed to the EU, this solidarity resonates deeply in Ireland, but not just in Ireland, in all small member states.”
Back in Brussels today for a series of key #Brexit meetings, starting with @eucopresident Donald Tusk. I’ll be thanking him for the ongoing @EUCouncil support for #Ireland and discussing current situation pic.twitter.com/TO2FUlA2Qk— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) February 6, 2019
Varadkar is due to meet with UK Prime Minister Theresa May in Dublin on Friday.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May holds meetings in Belfast
In Belfast, UK Prime Minister Theresa May met with politicians at Stormont in hopes of finding a solution to the backstop impasse.
The measure of this moment in Northern Ireland’s history must be more than whether we avoid a return to the challenges of the past. It must be how, together, we move forwards to shape the opportunities of the future. pic.twitter.com/ih7QSGnzBx— Theresa May (@theresa_may) February 6, 2019
After their meetings, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald slammed May saying: “We are now 51 days from the Brexit deadline and the British Prime Minister has come here empty handed with the same old rhetoric with no plan, no credibility, and frankly no honor.”.
"We have told her that the British strategy of running down the clock and playing a game of chicken with Ireland and Irish interests is profoundly unacceptable and wrong.
"We have told her that the days of Britain dictating to Ireland or Irish people, that those days are over and will not return.”
"We have told her that the backstop is the bottom line, the bare minimum requirements to meet Irish interests, to protect the Good Friday Agreement, to prevent a hardening of the border, to in some way mitigate citizens' rights."
Arlene Foster, head of the DUP in Northern Ireland, however, said: "Our message was very simple. The draft Withdrawal Agreement is flawed because the backstop would undermine the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom."
"It is welcome that the prime minister is traveling to Brussels to seek changes, but she must stand strong and by the commitments she made to the House of Commons.”
"We want a deal. One that works for us as well as our neighbors in the Republic of Ireland. But we must face reality. There is no 'agreement' unless it is able to command the necessary support in Parliament."
On Thursday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May is set to visit Brussels before heading to Dublin on Friday to meet with the Taoiseach.