Tensions rise as EU prepares for final Brexit stretch

Source:AFP Published: 2018/9/20 22:23:42

EU leaders met Thursday to prepare for the final stretch of Brexit negotiations, after public clashes with Britain over who should give ground but signs of a shift on both sides over the key issue of Ireland.

After pitching her Brexit plan to the other European Union leaders over dinner on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May will leave them to discuss their next steps without her on Thursday.

The meeting in Salzburg, Austria, is the first of three summits in successive months, which Brussels hopes will end with agreement on the terms of Britain's withdrawal from the bloc set for March 29 next year.

The Alpine summit began with a warning from EU Council President Donald Tusk that Britain's offer on post-Brexit trade ties and Ireland - the two sticking points in the talks - must be "reworked."

May, who is under intense pressure from Brexiteers back home, retorted that she had already made compromises and it was now Brussels' turn.

She told EU leaders that their proposal to "carve away" Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom, to avoid checks on the border after Brexit, was "not credible."

"The approaches remain very different," Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told reporters as he arrived for Thursday's talks.

"Away from the discussion in the media, behind closed doors, I have the impression that both sides are aware that a solution can only be found if both sides make a move towards one another.

"It will nevertheless still be a difficult process."

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel added: "It is an agreement, so we both have to find a compromise."

French President Emmanuel Macron insisted Britain must still explain how it intends to avoid physical border checks in Ireland after leaving the EU's single market and customs union.

Both sides have pledged to avoid a "hard" frontier in Ireland, amid fears it could disrupt trade and upset the fragile peace on the island.

Posted in: EUROPE

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