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UK and EU fail to reach Brexit deal

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The EU and U.K. failed to reach an agreement on sufficient progress towards a Brexit deal Monday following a key lunch between Theresa May and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, reported Politico (Germany).

In a joint press conference following the meeting, both leaders tried to put a positive gloss on the outcome, saying they were within touching distance of a deal.

“This is not a failure,” said Juncker. “I’m very confident that we will reach agreement in the course of this week.”

Officials had hoped the lunch would clinch a deal on “sufficient progress” that would pass muster with EU27 leaders who must formally sign off on any agreement at the European Council summit in Brussels next week. That would signify the go-ahead to move on to a second phase of talks focused on a transition period and the framework of a future trade relationship.

Instead, they appeared to be snared on details related to two of the three key divorce issues: the question of the Ireland-Northern Ireland border, and citizens’ rights. The issue that for months had created the main standoff — the so-called single financial settlement — apparently was the matter closest to an agreement.

In their brief joint statement to the press, which did not include questions, the leaders said their negotiators would reconvene later this week and they were confident that a deal was in reach.

“I have to say that she is a tough negotiator and not an easy one,” Juncker said. “She is defending the point of view of Britain, with all the energy we know she has. And I am doing the same on the side of the European Union.”

But he said: “Despite our best efforts — and the significant progress we and our teams have made over the past days on the remaining withdrawal issues — it was not possible to reach a complete agreement today.”

May said: “On a couple of issues some differences do remain … we will reconvene before the end of the week, and I am also confident that we will conclude this positively.”

The prime minister was due to go directly from the press conference to a meeting with Donald Tusk, the European Council president. It was Tusk who set Monday as the “absolute deadline” for an improved offer from the U.K. After the meeting, he also said there was still time for a deal before the summit.

“It is now getting very tight but agreement at December #EUCO is still possible,” Tusk wrote on Twitter.

Despite their reassurances, the pressure is certain to intensify if an agreement is not finalized within the next 36 hours, before a meeting of the College of Commissioners on Wednesday.

While there is no technical or legal deadline for concluding phase one of the talks, a failure to do so by the end of the year could prove deeply damaging to Britain, where businesses are craving some certainty in the Brexit process.

The failure to reach a deal could prompt many businesses to begin setting in motion contingency plans that could include relocating investments from the U.K.

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The people in the north of Ireland voted to remain in the EU. Yet on 29 March Theresa May signalled to the European Council the British Government's intention to leave the EU and drag us out, reported The Independent (UK).

The first phase of a two-year negotiation on Brexit started in June and prioritised the British Government's “divorce bill”, the rights of EU citizens and how Brexit will impact Ireland.

The EU made clear this Brexit process must safeguard the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts, the rights of citizens and north-south cooperation – including no hardening of the border.

When finally the British and the EU appeared to agree on a solution on Monday, the DUP vetoed it in their own narrow sectorial interest. The putative agreement between Theresa May and the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, appears to have been derailed by them.

In effect, when attempts were made to cater for the unique position of the north of Ireland and to protect citizens’ rights, our economy, and the Good Friday Agreement, the DUP went out of their way to block this.

Last Friday the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, visited Dublin.
He said if the British Government's offer on the border is unacceptable for Ireland, then it will also be unacceptable for the EU. This is a welcome approach which needs to be maintained.

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, should continue to stand up for the Irish people – north and south – against the British Government, DUP and the right-wing press.

The DUP are Theresa May's partners in this sorry mess. But the DUP do not speak for the cross-community majority here who voted Remain.

They, like their Tory partners, represent only a tiny section of the Brexit-at-any-cost British establishment.

No one, least of all the DUP, has made a credible case that the north of Ireland will be better off outside the EU. They cannot tell us how we will maintain essential cross-border services such as the all-Ireland cancer centre in Derry or the freedom to travel and trade across the EU.

In Ireland, Brexit would mean economic damage on an unquantifiable scale due to trade tariffs and regulatory divergence.

All of this is occurring against a backdrop of relentless, DUP-driven Tory austerity, severe cuts to public services and investment.

The solution to Britain’s Brexit crisis in Ireland is clear. The north of Ireland should have Designated Special Status within the EU, ensuring that we remain within the customs union and the single market. That is the only guarantee of stability and certainty which will deliver the full protection of the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts; including Irish citizenship and the benefits of EU citizenship.

This is a common sense, practical, and achievable proposal and does not change the constitutional position of the north. We are told Brexit is happening and we must accept it. Sinn Féin and citizens across the island of Ireland reject this as an abdication of political leadership.

We are at a crucial juncture in the process. The Irish Government have the responsibility and the leverage to ensure clarity and certainty from the British Government.

The DUP’s determination to deliver Brexit regardless of the cost to the people of Ireland, north and south, including large swathes of their own electorate, is clear. But they represent a minority of people in the north, a minority in Ireland, a tiny minority on these islands and a minuscule minority in Europe.

The relationship between the people of Britain and the European Union is entirely a matter for the people of Britain. But the people of Ireland cannot be collateral damage in process that is driven by Brextremists in the DUP and the Tory Party.

Defending the economic security and future of Ireland must be the priority for the Taoiseach in the immediate time ahead.

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