Britain's Brexit negotiators returned to Brussels on Tuesday vowing to "get a deal over the line" as they seek European Union support to break the deadlock in London as this month's divorce deadline looms. UK attorney general Geoffrey Cox and Brexit minister Stephen Barclay began talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, an EU official told news agency AFP amid conciliatory signals from both sides. Earlier, British Prime Minister Theresa May insisted that Britain will leave the European Union on schedule next month, amid signs that her promise to give Parliament a vote on delaying Brexit was boosting support for her unpopular EU divorce deal. May has bowed to pressure from within her Conservative government and given Parliament the chance to delay Britain's scheduled March 29 departure if lawmakers fail to approve her divorce agreement with the bloc.
Barnier said on Saturday the European Union was ready to give further guarantees to help the Brexit deal it struck with Prime Minister Theresa May in November get through the British parliament.
Barnier also suggested European leaders would be amenable to a short "technical" delay in Britain's departure from the bloc scheduled for March 29, to give parliament time to formally ratify a final accord.
"We are determined to get a deal over the line and deliver on Brexit," Barclay tweeted as he and Cox, the government's top lawyer, departed for Brussels.
Barnier's small overture to Britain has raised some hopes that both sides can find a solution, including to the so-called "backstop" plan for the Irish border, a major sticking point for pro-Brexit MPs.
The two sides are at a "critical point" in these negotiations, a spokeswoman for May said on Tuesday.
Delaying Brexit would require approval from all 27 other EU countries, whose leaders are annoyed by what they see as the inability of feuding British politicians to agree on what kind of relationship the UK wants with the bloc. Chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said Wednesday that there must be clarity that extending negotiations wouldn't just prolong the impasse facing both sides. EU politicians say Britain must have a good reason for seeking a pause.
French President Emmanuel Macron said any such request would need to be justified by "a clear perspective on the goal." "We don't need time. We need decisions," he said at a joint news conference in Paris with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel said the EU wouldn't refuse Britain "a bit more time." She said "we are aiming for an orderly solution an orderly withdrawal by the British from the European Union.