The President of the European Commission has said that Britain's proposal for a deal on its departure from the EU included "positive advances" but there are still "some problematic points".
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed a "new protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland" to replace the backstop that was included in the original Withdrawal Agreement.
Jean-Claude Juncker told Mr Johnson during a phone call today that the EU's executive would examine the legal text objectively and in light of the EU's "well-known criteria," the commission said in a statement.
He welcomed Mr Johnson's determination to advance the talks before the October European Council meeting and make progress towards a deal, it said.
"He acknowledged the positive advances, notably with regards to the full regulatory alignment for all goods and the control of goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.
"However, the President also noted that there are still some problematic points that will need further work in the coming days, notably with regards to the governance of the backstop," it added.
It said the "delicate balance" on the island that was achieved by the Good Friday Agreement must be preserved.
Another concern that needs to be addressed are the substantive customs rules, it said.
The commission added that there must be a legally operational solution that meets all the objectives of the backstop: preventing a hard border, preserving north-south cooperation and the all-island economy, and protecting the EU's single market and Ireland's place in it.
It said meetings between the EU and British negotiation teams would take place in Brussels over the coming days.
"The EU wants a deal. We remain united and ready to work 24/7 to make this happen – as we have been for over three years now," it said.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said: "There is progress. But to be frank, a lot of work still needs to be done to reach, to fulfil, the three objectives of the backstop - no border, all-Ireland economy, and protecting the single market.
"That means protecting the consumer, the citizens, and the businesses inside the single market, the 27 member states.
"So now we will continue to work, to work to reach a deal. The no-deal will never be the choice of the EU. Never. So we will continue to reach a deal and to work with the UK team."
The #Brexit Steering group at the @Europarl_EN is absolutely not postive about PM Johnson's proposals. It doesn’t provide the necessary safeguards for Ireland. Full written statement tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/vvl1WcMequ— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) October 2, 2019
A British government spokesman said Mr Johnson was ready for an intense period of negotiations after he set out his new Brexit proposal.
"We are putting forward proposals that we would like to build upon. I think what is important is seeing that the EU is willing to engage with this broad landing-zone and to go into ten days of, as I say, fairly intensive discussions with us.
"If the EU, obviously, don't show they are prepared to engage with this proposal then the prime minister has been clear that we will move forward and leave without a deal," the spokesman added.