Europe News

'It's never too late,' Luxembourg minister says on possible Brexit deal

Key Points
  • The pressure is mounting given the scheduled departure date of March 29.
  • If the impasse continues, the U.K. could leave the EU without any agreement, which would bring huge uncertainty for businesses and citizens as well as fears in financial markets.
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A last-minute Brexit agreement ‘cannot fix it all,’ Luxembourg finance minister says

The United Kingdom may be careering toward a no-deal Brexit with only six weeks to its official deadline, but Luxembourg's finance minister has offered some confidence on a deal still being reached.

The U.K. and the European negotiating teams agreed Monday to have further talks on how to overcome the current impasse.

U.K. lawmakers rejected last month a deal that Prime Minister Theresa May had reached with the other 27 European countries after nearly two years of negotiations. The main stumbling block is the Irish backstop, a safety policy that aims to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The pressure is mounting given the scheduled departure date of March 29. If the impasse continues, the U.K. could leave the EU without any agreement, which would bring huge uncertainty for businesses and citizens as well as fears in financial markets.

"You know in diplomacy it's never too late, so one should continue to discuss," Pierre Gramegna, the Luxembourg finance minister and former diplomat, told CNBC's Willem Marx in Brussels Tuesday.

"Obviously, we are coming very close to a dire strait, but when you have been partners for more than 40 years … You're trying to find the best possible solution," he added.

May will update the U.K. parliament on Tuesday and is set to ask for more patience as she tries to get some new compromises from the EU. She has promised to give U.K. lawmakers another chance to vote on the Brexit process by February 27.

VIDEO4:1004:10
EU’s Barnier says Brexit is the responsibility of the UK

"I have seen many negotiations, yes, but this one is such a wide one that you cannot strike a deal by changing a number, a percentage or adding a sentence. This is so wide that it took many months, in fact two years to negotiate, and there are so many different topics, so that's why we needed something that encompasses the whole relationship and that's why a last-minute agreement cannot fix it all," Gramegna said.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned Monday that time is running short for both sides to reach a deal. With this in mind, European countries have stepped up their plans in case the U.K. does leave without a deal.

Magdalena Andersson, Sweden's finance minister, told CNBC Monday that her country "unfortunately" has had to step up no-deal preparations in the past few weeks.

"We hope that there will be a solution, a disorganized Brexit would be bad for not only Great Britain but for the rest of Europe," she said.

"We are preparing for the worst scenario … We are telling our companies, particularly our small companies, they do need to prepare for the eventuality that there actually is a disorganized Brexit, but also our authorities, like the customs authority need to prepare," Andersson told CNBC's Willem Marx.