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Future of Irish border hampers Brexit talks

Reuters

British Prime Minister Theresa May, left, and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, make statements at the commission in Brussels on Monday.

The Associated PressBRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union and Britain ended a flurry of top-level diplomacy on Monday without a deal on the terms of their divorce, as agreement on how to maintain an open Irish border after Brexit slipped out of the negotiators’ grasp.

But the two sides said they were within striking distance of consensus, setting up a hectic negotiating rush ahead of an EU summit next week. Member countries must decide whether to broaden the talks to the topic of future relations.

British Prime Minister Theresa May went to Brussels for a long negotiating lunch with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. After a day that see-sawed between hope and disappointment, the leaders failed to make what the EU considers “sufficient progress” on three issues: Britain’s exit bill, the rights of citizens affected by Brexit and the status of the currently invisible Irish border.

The border issue remained the main sticking point. “We had an agreement this morning,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said, expressing disappointment at the last-minute glitch.

EU leaders want a deal on the breakup terms in time for them to agree at the Dec. 14-15 summit whether to move the negotiations on to the next stage of talks, including trade. The lack of progress so far has raised concerns that Britain may not have a deal by the time it officially leaves on March 29, 2019.

“Despite our best efforts and the significant process we and our teams have made over the past days on the remaining withdrawal issues, it was not possible to reach an agreement,” EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.

“This is not a failure,” Juncker added after a long negotiating lunch with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

May said that “on a couple of issues some differences do remain which require further negotiation and consultation.” But she said talks would reconvene later this week “and I am also confident we will conclude this positively.”

The EU and the U.K. are nearing agreement on some divorce terms, including the size of the bill that Britain must pay as it leaves and the rights of citizens affected by Brexit. But the border issue has proved more intractable.Speech

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