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1ST LEAD May under pressure as EU gives Sunday deadline for Brexit border deal By Helen Maguire and Bill Smith, dpa

Europe
07.12.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Brussels (dpa) - British Prime Minister Theresa May has until Sunday to come to Brussels with new Brexit proposals, to leave enough time for discussions on future trade relations to begin next week, the European Commission said on Thursday.

May has been trying to find new wording since Monday on the principles for a post-Brexit Irish border, following the last-minute collapse of an agreement after an objection by Northern Ireland‘s Democratic Unionist Party.

Talks between May‘s government and the DUP continued on Thursday, while May discussed the issue again by phone with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, local media reported.

The DUP and some lawmakers from May‘s Conservative party have urged the Irish government and the European Union to step back from their insistence on "regulatory alignment" between Northern Ireland, which will leave the EU with the rest of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, which will remain an EU member.

But Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told the Irish parliament on Thursday that "the core issues that Ireland got agreement on at the start of the week are not changing."

Irish and EU officials have agreed that "regulatory alignment" is the best way to avoid a "hard" border and allow Northern Ireland to retain similar benefits to those it currently has under the EU single market and customs union.

Gerry Adams, president of Irish Republican party Sinn Fein, urged Varadkar to be "very careful about how he approaches the next phase of the Brexit negotiations."

Adams said Varadkar should ensure that any agreed text mentions a role for the European Court of Justice in overseeing the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which paved the way for power-sharing between Republicans and Unionists after decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

The Brexit agreement should also guarantee that people in Northern Ireland with Irish citizenship will have "full EU rights," Adams said.

In London, meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said any deal on the border must be "consistent with the whole of the United Kingdom taking back control of our laws, of our borders and of our cash."

The Irish border is the thorniest of three key issues on which the European Union wants clarity before agreeing to start talks on future relations - a step that London hopes to achieve at a summit of EU leaders on December 14-15.

The other two issues are citizens‘ rights post-Brexit and Britain‘s outstanding financial obligations to the EU.

Talks between Brussels and London are also ongoing, but so far there is "no white smoke," European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said on Thursday in Brussels, adding that May would have to come back with proposals "this week."

"In this building we work for a full week 24/7, and our week includes Sunday," he noted.

Reports of a deadline extension into next week "are not correct," Schinas said, adding that senior EU diplomats were meeting on Monday to prepare next week‘s summit.

 

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