Friday, 15 December, 2017

Future of Irish border remains an obstacle in Brexit talks

Both London and Dublin insist the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic will remain control-free but a deal remains elusive Both London and Dublin insist the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic will remain control-free but a deal remains elusive
Howard Terry | 05 December, 2017, 01:53

Britain's Daily Telegraph and Financial Times reported that London had agreed with Dublin, which has the backing of the European Union, to maintain regulatory "alignment" with the EU on both sides of the border to avoid a possible flare-up in the violence which troubled Northern Ireland for decades.

"Crucially it is clear that we want to move forward together, but on a couple of issues, differences do remain, which require further negotiation and consultation", said May before heading to meet President of the European Council Donald Tusk nearly one-hour late than scheduled.

"This is not a failure", said Juncker.

Mrs May hopes to achieve a breakthrough during her visit to Brussels to meet Mr Juncker and European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday.

Theresa May's attempts to make a major breakthrough in the Brexit negotiations were scuppered at the last minute by a furious Democratic Unionist Party amid concerns around the Northern Irish border.

"We had an agreement this morning", Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said, expressing disappointment at the last-minute glitch.

May hopes that her talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and his Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, due to start at 1:15 p.m. (1215 GMT), can persuade her 27 fellow EU leaders that "sufficient progress" has been made on divorce terms for them to agree next week to open talks on their future trade relationship.

Britain is set to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019 yet the progress on its exit and the terms of new relations have been painfully slow.

The EU has demanded "sufficient progress" on key withdrawal issues - the UK's exit payment, citizens' rights and Irish border - before the second phase can start. "We have common understanding on most issues". This is possible because both the United Kingdom and Ireland are part of the EU's borderless single market for goods and services as well as the tariff-less customs union.

The Prime Minister is reliant on any support from the party as the DUP is propping up her government with its 10 MPs. But she said talks would reconvene later this week "and I am also confident we will conclude this positively".

But that task has been complicated by the DUP's show of strength, the publication of the sensitive wording from the draft negotiating text and Leo Varadkar's public insistence that the British government had signed up to a formula which the DUP found so hard to swallow.

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