BRUSSELS / DUBLIN (Reuters) – British negotiators met in last-minute talks with their Irish and European Union counterparts on Monday, trying to put together a Brexit agreement that Prime Minister Theresa May could agree to during lunch at Brussels.
London has widely accepted many of the terms of divorce from the EU, including the payment of something like 50 billion euros. But the problems of the rights of expatriate citizens and the border between the United Kingdom and the EU on the island of Ireland remain tense, diplomats said.
Brussels officials and diplomats are increasingly confident of an agreement over the weekend, but warn that much will depend on the outcome of the May talks over lunch.
"I have good feelings, but I am not prejudging the result," said a senior diplomat from Brussels.
You can expect your talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and your Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, to begin at 1:15 p.m. (1215 GMT), it can persuade its 27 leading EU comrades that "sufficient progress" has been made in terms of divorce so that they agree to open talks about their future commercial relationship next week.
They will hold a summit on Friday, December 15 [nL8N1O30C4] chaired by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, with whom May has scheduled a meeting at 4 p.m., after his lunch with Juncker.
Dublin, backed by the rest of the EU, is seeking strong guarantees that London will commit to maintaining trade regulations in Northern Ireland as well as in the EU, to avoid a "hard border" that could disrupt the peace on the island.
"Fortunately, we will find a way forward today," Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told state broadcaster RTE before a cabinet meeting to discuss the issue before the May talks.
Coveney said the talks are in a "sensitive place," with the British and Irish governments discussing possible texts of an agreement. Britain is trying to keep its options open, after having rejected the commitment to leave Northern Ireland in a customs union with the EU or to keep the whole United Kingdom in one.
May depends in parliament on a pro-British party in Northern Ireland that rejects any agreement that would divide the province from the British mainland. But Ireland and the EU say that maintaining a customs union is the best way to avoid "regulatory divergence."
Juncker and Barnier will meet with the Brexit team of the European Parliament at 11 a.m. to inform them about the progress. The legislature, which must approve any withdrawal treaty if a disruptive Brexit is to be avoided by March 2019, has demanded that EU courts have the final say to secure the rights of 3 million EU citizens in Britain. Britain insists that it will no longer accept the supervision of the European Court of Justice.
Nadine Dorries, a member of the ruling British Conservative Party that supports Brexit, said May should tell EU officials that time is running out to take the talks to the next phase.
The EU has had "enough time now to decide whether or not to discuss trade with us, they have to move forward and if they do not, as we get closer we move away". no deal, "she said.
May portrays Monday's meeting as part of preparations for an EU summit on December 15, although the EU says negotiations will not be held at the summit, so on Monday It is the last chance for him to make offers. "A British spokesman said:" With many discussions pending, Monday will be an important step on the way to the crucial December Council. "
Since the British referendum on leaving the EU in 2016, Brexit's high-profile opponents have suggested that Britain could change its mind and avoid what they say will be a disaster for its economy Half of Britons support a second vote on whether to leave the EU, according to a survey of opinion published on Sunday.
With the time until the departure date of March 2019, May is under pressure to begin talks on its future commercial ties to end of the year to eliminate the cloud of uncertainty for companies doing business in the United States.
More than 30 Brexit supporters, including members of parliament and former conservative ministers, have signed a letter asking May to abandon the talks unless the main conditions are met.
Include the end of the free movement of persons from the EU to Great Britain and that the European Court of Justice has no further role in British legal affairs after March 2019.
Additional reporting by Andrew MacAskill, Estelle Shirbon and Kate Holton in London, written by Andrew MacAskill and Alastair Macdonald, editing by Larry King