European Council President Donald Tusk said no Brexit breakthrough was in sight, but that talks with the UK would continue after Prime Minister Theresa May returned to Brussels on Thursday to plead with EU leaders to amend the Brexit divorce deal she negotiated last year.
May's visit to the European Union got off to a shaky start before talks had even begun when a protester jumped in front of a convoy of cars carrying the Prime Minister.
The demonstrator was quickly moved away by another man and was uninjured.
Hector McGillivray, another protester at the small demonstration said he was opposed to May's visit. "She's coming here on a fruitless errand because I don't think she'll get anything," he said.
A frosty start
May's visit comes 50 days before Britain is set to depart the bloc and could leave with no deal and no measures to keep free trade with the EU.
The UK Prime Minister and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker met with a cool handshake for the cameras. Neither spoke to reporters but Euronews journalist Darren McCaffrey shouted out "Is this hell, prime minister?,” following EU summit chair Donald Tusk's comment on Wednesday that Brexiteers with no clear plan deserved “a special place in hell”.
There was a glimmer of hope for negotiations as a joint statement released by the European Commission from Junker and May said the discussion "was robust and constructive".
It added: "President Juncker underlined that the EU27 will not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement... President Juncker, however, expressed his openness to add wording to the Political Declaration agreed by the EU27 and the UK in order to be more ambitious in terms of content and speed."
May's plea to the EU
UK Parliament rejected May's Brexit deal with the EU but voted to renegotiate it over concerns of an agreement on the so-called Irish backstop, a provision to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Some UK Ministers fear the current backstop plan could keep Northern Ireland under EU rules indefinitely.
EU leaders have repeatedly said it would not be possible to replace the backstop as it is required to ensure no hard border between the nations.
May will return to parliament on February 14 for a debate on the Brexit talks and a vote on approving the deal is likely to come later this month.
Unless parliament approves a deal, Britain is set to leave the bloc on March 29 with no transition arrangement, which business leaders say would be catastrophic for the economy.
On Thursday, the Bank of England said the UK was set for its weakest economic growth in a decade in 2019, blaming it on Brexit uncertainty and the global slowdown.
"The fog of Brexit is causing short-term volatility in the economic data and, more fundamentally, it is creating a series of tensions in the economy, tensions for business,” said the Bank of England Governor Mark Carney.
Adding, the chance of a no-deal Brexit had become more probable, despite not being the likeliest outcome.
Other scenarios include delaying Brexit, holding a new referendum, or even cancelling the UK's departure altogether.
The Commission said May and Juncker will meet again before the end of this month to "take stock" Thursday's discussions.