UK must agree on border deal in Brexit negotiations

Tánaiste Simon Coveney is expected to warn today the Brexit negotiations cannot move on unless Britain signs off this week on the backstop deal to ensure there is no hard border when it leaves the EU.

The EU and Britain are still divided on the contentious issue of the North but progress is needed if talks are to move ahead on a Brexit transition deal and a future trade agreement.

Mr Coveney will meet EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels today. This follows intense negotiations last week between the EU and British sides, ahead of a leaders summit later this week.

Britain needs the crucial transition deal, to soften any blows to business and allow a smooth exit by December 2020 or preferably beyond this EU deadline. Future trade talks are also a key demand.

This all hangs on agreeing to the draft December withdrawal treaty, which included the backstop clause to guarantee there would be no new border in the North even with a disorderly Brexit.

EU officials have signalled that without agreement on withdrawal, there will be no transition agreement, a position which will be decided by EU leaders, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, at the summit in Brussels on Friday.

The Irish Examiner understands no changes have been made to the December withdrawal text. However, Ireland is seeking an incentive clause in the new trade framework which would see it changed if Britain agreed to stay in the single market and customs union.

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