Netizen 24 IRL: Brexit: May in Brussels for crucial meeting with Juncker and Barnier

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Brexit: May in Brussels for crucial meeting with Juncker and Barnier

British prime minister Theresa May has arrived in Brussels this morning where she will meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU negotiator Michel Barnier.

The prime minister is expected to make a new offer on how to deal with the Irish border after Brexit that she hopes will satisfy both Dublin and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her government.

The decision to fly to Brussels followed a night of ongoing talks.

The chairman of European Union leaders Donald Tusk is due to meet Mrs May at around 7am (Irish time)in Brussels.

DUP leader Arlene Foster told Sky News her party had won “six substantive changes” to the text on the Irish border proposed earlier this week.

These include no “red line” down the Irish Sea … [and] very clear confirmation that the entirety of the UK is leaving the single market and the customs union.

Ms Foster also said her party had been working with No 10 “right into the early hours” and she had been “negotiating directly with the prime minister”.

Mrs May now has “a text she feels she can take back to Europe”, Foster says.

Ms Foster added that while she was satisfied that “constitutionally, politically and economically … the integrity of the United Kingdom was kept in place”, the DUP has not secured all it wanted in the new agreement, saying that they ran out of time.

The DUP on Monday objected to plans for “regulatory alignment” between Northern Ireland and the Republic to maintain a soft border between the two, arguing it would amount to the drawing of a new frontier with the UK mainland in the Irish Sea.

Early on Friday morning the British government’s chief whip Julian Smith sent a series of tweets whi ch hinted at potential movement in the negotiations.

He wrote: “theresa_may has worked tirelessly this week to try to move EU negotiations onto the next stage in the National Interest”, and added: “theresa_may has led very challenging negotiations this week with energy, persistence & drive.”

Mrs May’s chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, later tweeted: “It’s been a long week.”

Mr Juncker’s chief spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, said on Thursday that the commission president had held telep hone conversations with Mrs May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

“We are making progress but not yet fully there,” Mr Schinas said.

Earlier on Thursday evening a UK government source had said: “We’re not there yet.”

Mrs May is under intense pressure to get leaders at the December 14th European Council summit to declare “sufficient progress” has been made on divorce issues so trade talks can begin.

On Thursday evening, an Irish Government spokesman said: “Matters are being considered as part of ongoing discussions involving the (EU negotiating) Task Force, the Irish Governm ent and the British Government. ”

But he did not specifically confirm whether or not a new form of text had been tabled by UK negotiators. DUP chief whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “Discussions are ongoing.”

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson has insisted any Brexit deal must stick to the spirit of the Leave campaign. “It is very, very important that whatever happens now, whatever we agree, has got to be consistent with taking back control of our laws, of our borders and of our cash,” he said.

Pressed on whether he was comfortable with a widespread regulatory alignment between the UK and EU after Brexit, the foreign secretary said: “You can take it from me that wha tever comes up, whatever the solution that we come to, whatever we devise getting on to the body of the talks, it’s got to be consistent, it’s got to be consistent with the whole of the United Kingdom taking back control.”

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