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Britain and EU Seen Close to Brexit Deal

Britain and EU Seen Close to Brexit DealBritain and EU Seen Close to Brexit Deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May closed in on a divorce deal with European Union chiefs on Monday with last-minute progress on the thorny issue of the Irish border after months of deadlock.

May met European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and was to see EU president Donald Tusk in Brussels for what the bloc says is the “absolute deadline” for an improved offer from London, AFP reported.

A deal on the key divorce issues —Ireland, Britain’s divorce bill and the rights of EU nationals in Britain— would allow the EU to approve the start of trade and transition talks at a summit on December 15.

“Tell me why I like Mondays!,” Tusk said on Twitter, saying he had been “encouraged” by a phone call with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on the negotiations.

“Getting closer to sufficient progress” at the December summit, he added.

May and Juncker did not speak to reporters as she arrived, with the pair shaking hands before the EU commission chief ushered her in to lunch by putting an arm behind her back.

Ireland’s demands on the status of the border with British-ruled Northern Ireland have been the key stumbling block recently, with fears that the talks could even collapse amid tensions between the two neighbors.

But European Parliament members who met Juncker on Monday said there were signs Britain was ready to concede on keeping the EU customs and single market rules for Northern Ireland after Brexit in order to resolve the border problem.

May faces pressure from Northern Irish unionists who prop up her minority Conservative government not to create a “new border” within British territory by creating special customs arrangements on the island of Ireland.

After months of stalemate, London and Brussels have effectively reached a deal on the contentious issue of the divorce bill, reported to be between 45 and 55 billion euros ($53-63 billion).

 

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