Monday 23 July 2018

Tusk says two sides 'getting closer' on moving Brexit negotiations to second phase

European Council President Donald Tusk, right, shakes hands with the chair of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem ahead of a meeting of eurozone finance ministers at the Europa building in Brussels on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
European Council President Donald Tusk, right, shakes hands with the chair of the Eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem ahead of a meeting of eurozone finance ministers at the Europa building in Brussels on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Arj Singh, Shaun Connolly and David Young

Britain and the European Union appear to be moving closer to agreement on the Irish border, expats' rights and the so-called "divorce bill" to push Brexit talks into the next phase.

European Council president Donald Tusk said the two sides were "getting closer" to making the required "sufficient progress" for him to recommend that negotiations move on to trade and a transition period.

Just before Prime Minister Theresa May arrived in Brussels for a working lunch with Jean Claude Juncker, the European Commission president and Mr Tusk spoke with Irish premier Leo Varadkar by telephone.

How to maintain a soft Irish border had emerged as the key sticking point to getting agreement from the EU to move on to phase two in negotiations.

Amid reports of a compromise on the border issue, Mr Tusk tweeted: "Tell me why I like Mondays! Encouraged after my phone call with Taoiseach @campaignforleo on progress on #Brexit issue of Ireland. Getting closer to sufficient progress at December #EUCO."

Mrs May's lunch with Mr Juncker comes on a deadline for "sufficient progress" set by Mr Tusk, who will also meet the PM on Monday, so he can recommend that EU leaders green light trade talks at the European Council summit on December 14 and 15.

Press Association

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