Relations between the EU and Britain have always been a bit prickly, but EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Friday that the Brexit negotiations are beginning to resemble the courtship of two hedgehogs.
"We're not at war with Great Britain," Juncker told the Austrian daily Die Presse in an interview published a day after British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan was rejected as unworkable and unacceptable by the bloc's other 27 members at an informal summit in Salzburg.
"We have to be careful, like two hedgehogs who love each other," Juncker said. "When two hedgehogs embrace, they have to watch out that they don't get scratched." Nevertheless, "the Irish border question is very difficult," he said.
The border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is the main sticking point, because when Britain leaves the European Union, it will become an external EU border.
If Britain leaves the bloc's customs union and single market, as it says it wants to, border checks would be required. But both London and Brussels have pledged to avoid any physical infrastructure, a so-called "hard border".
May said in Salzburg she would "shortly" bring forward new proposals on the so-called backstop on how to carry out regulatory checks on goods going in and out of Northern Ireland.