British Prime Minister Theresa May said Monday no agreement has been reached with the European Union on exit negotiations — with the main stumbling block a “hard border” between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
May, appearing at a news conference with European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker in Brussels, Belgium, said talks on Britain’s departure are continuing.
“Both sides have been working hard in good faith,” May said. “We’ve been negotiating hard, and a lot of progress has been made.
“On many of the issues there is a common understanding. And it is clear, crucially, that we want to move forward together but on a couple of issues some differences do remain which require further negotiation and consultation and those will continue.”
May said negotiators plan to reconvene before the end of the week.
“I am also confident that we will conclude this positively,” she added.
Juncker said, “we are narrowing our positions” and that he’s hoping for “sufficient progress” before a summit in December. He called May “a tough negotiator.”
The second phase will focus on a future trade relationship between the two sides as well as transitional arrangements.
The EU and Britain differ in three main areas — the rights of European citizens in Britain, reinstatement of a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and a substantial “divorce bill.”
The two sides have seen progress on citizens’ rights and the “divorce bill,” but remain at odds on the Irish border. Northern Ireland will leave EU with the rest of Britain in March 2019.
Philippe Lamberts, the Belgian member in the European Parliament, told CNN that Britain had agreed that Northern Ireland would continue to be aligned with EU laws and regulations based on a draft document.
“We needed a commitment to have no divergence,” he said, adding Britain “didn’t want that wording but what we have, it is full alignment.”
The Irish government has sought a guarantee from Britain that there would be no return to border controls after London’s departure. The Democratic Union Party, though, warned it won’t back any agreement that threatens Britain’s territorial integrity. The party and the Conservatives have a deal to keep May in power.
“We have been very clear: Northern Ireland must leave the EU on the same terms as the rest of the UK and we will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the UK,” Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, said
She criticizedd the Irish government “for clearly seeking to unilaterally change” the 1998 Good Friday agreement that ended 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.
By Allen Cone