Authorities from the United Kingdom and the European Union have failed to reach an anticipated deal for Brexit despite “significant progress” on key outstanding issues, as the Irish border reportedly remains a sticking point.
“It was not possible to reach a complete agreement today,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said adding that he was “very confident” an agreement would be reached in the course of this week.
The historically sensitive and complex issue of the Northern Irish border has posed a final stumbling block to reaching a wider accord. Prime Minister May’s government has faced additional difficulties as its junior cabinet partner the DUP is vehemently opposed to any deal which differentiates Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
May said: “We’ve been negotiating hard and a lot of progress has been made and on many of the issues there is a common understanding. On a couple of issues some differences do remain which require further negotiation and consultation. I am also confident that we will conclude this positively.”
The EU has stuck firmly to three demands: that Britain pay a substantial “divorce bill,” that rights of European citizens in the UK are guaranteed and that there is no reinstatement of a border infrastructure between Northern Ireland, which will leave the EU with the rest of Britain in March 2019, and the Republic of Ireland.
The almost invisible 300-mile barrier that was part of the peace process in Ireland was only possible because Ireland and the U.K. were both members of the EU and its single market.
Ireland insists on open access while the Democratic Unionist Party, whose 10 lawmakers prop up May in London, are adamant Northern Ireland will leave the EU on the same terms as the rest of Britain.
“If one part of UK can retain regulatory alignment with EU and effectively stay in the single market (which is the right solution for Northern Ireland) there is surely no good practical reason why others can’t,” Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister tweeted, adding to the potentially divisive political fray.