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Brexit Irish border deal possible within hours

08 December 2017

"We stand ready to receive prime minister May at any moment in time when they are ready", Margaritis Schinas, chief spokesman for commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, told reporters in Brussels.

The British government needs to reach a deal with the EU on issues including the Irish border, the "divorce bill", and EU citizens' rights before it can move onto the next stage of Brexit negotiations, and the European Union has set a deadline of Sunday night to reach one. "I say hours because I think we are very close". Everyone recognises that there are special circumstances that apply in Northern Ireland and that everything must be done to avoid a return to the borders of the past, but the deal that was on the table earlier this week was a failure of logic, diplomacy, and political common sense. "Obviously there will be contacts in the coming days to see if there's a possibility to put an agreement back on track before the EU Council meets on Thursday and Friday next".

Moving to talks about trade and a Brexit transition are crucial for the future of May's premiership, and to keep trade flowing between the world's biggest trading bloc and its sixth largest national economy after Britain leaves on March 29, 2019.

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But EU sources said it was still possible that European leaders could agree at the summit next week that there had been "sufficient progress", in order to give May a win, while postponing their approval of the guidelines for trade talks.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has cautioned that the talks on the United Kingdom leaving the bloc will not shift to the next stage if London fails to arrive at a consensus on a text about the relevant deal in the next 48 hours.

To clinch a deal, though, May must ensure she has the support of the DUP, whose leader told her bluntly on Monday that it would not support her minority government's legislation unless the Irish border draft deal was changed.

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The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) insists that Northern Ireland, as part of the United Kingdom, must leave the European Union in the same way as the rest of the United Kingdom.

Theresa May is facing a high-pressure race against time to make progress in Brexit talks amid a deadlock over the Irish border which threatens to drag on until the new year.

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Brexit Irish border deal possible within hours