December 5, 2017, 12:05 pm
Britain and the EU failed to strike a Brexit divorce deal after a dispute over the Irish border scuppered talks in Brussels on Monday, but both said they were confident of reaching an agreement later this week.
British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker appeared to have made a breakthrough on easing Dublin’s concerns about future frontier arrangements.
Britain was prepared to keep the EU customs and single market rules for Northern Ireland in order to meet Dublin’s insistence that Brexit should not bring back a “hard border” and threaten a peace process that ended decades of sectarian tensions on the island, sources said.
But any such deal was swiftly undone thanks to fierce opposition from Northern Irish unionists who prop up May’s minority Conservative government, in a development that Ireland’s premier called “surprising and disappointing”.
The EU says Britain must make sufficient progress on key divorce issues-Ireland, Britain’s financial bill for leaving the bloc, and the rights of EU nationals in Britain-to allow the opening of trade and transition talks at a summit on December 15.
“Despite our best efforts... it was not possible to reach a complete agreement today,” Juncker said at a joint news conference with May, adding that she was a “tough negotiator.”
“This is not a failure... I am very confident that we will reach an agreement in the course of this week,” added the former Luxembourg premier.