EU Commission sets Sunday deadline after 'no white smoke' on Brexit deal

Sergio Conner
December 8, 2017

"I believe that we have now made the breakthrough that we needed", European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters.

The leader of the Northern Irish party propping up Britain's minority government said on Tuesday her party was just as firm about its demands for a Brexit plan for Northern Ireland as Ireland's government.

On Thursday, EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas had dismissed British newspaper reports that the Sunday deadline could be extended into next week as "not correct".

He said no particular words or combination of words were discussed. "We are here to work constructively with the United Kingdom government to come to an agreement based on the principles that we had agreed to yesterday", Varadkar told parliament on Tuesday.

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.

The Republic of Ireland - which is an European Union member - says it wants a guarantee that a hard border will not be put up after Brexit.

The BBC's Adam Fleming said that following an update from chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier on Wednesday, EU member states agreed there must be clarity within 48 hours for them to have enough time to consult with their capitals about draft guidelines for phase two of the talks.

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All sides say they want to avoid a return to a hard border between European Union member Ireland and the British-ruled province of Northern Ireland, which might upset the peace established after decades of violence.

DUP leader Arlene Foster speaks at her party's annual conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland, November 25, 2017.

A spokesperson for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said this morning: "The view of the Irish Government is that the terms of the deal reached on Monday must stand".

It would also increase pressure from Tory Brexiteers for her to walk out of the talks and prepare for a "no deal Brexit".

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.

"In Northern Ireland we guarantee there will be no hard border", May told a press conference with Juncker.

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