Barnier: Brexit deal at 90%, Ireland a 'sticking point'

A dog wears a banner during the'Wooferendum march in central London where dog owners and their pets gather to demand a new Bre

"We are working with European Union to deal with this issue of ensuring that if there is a gap between the end of the implementation period and the point when the future relationship comes in - and we don't expect a gap to exist - we want to ensure there's no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, " May said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May had earlier addressed her fellow leaders, indicating that she could accept extending the post-Brexit transition phase to take the heat out the deadlocked issue of the Irish border.

An accord sketched by officials from both sides last weekend stalled because May's fractious government rejected a "backstop" insurance clause the European Union wants in case future talks fail to forge a trade pact that avoids customs posts on the Irish border.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and her closest advisers were on Thursday contemplating how to scale the "brick wall" that is preventing a Brexit deal being agreed with Brussels.

He also signalled his support for extending the UK's Brexit transition period, saying that he welcomed any proposal that would help bring about a solution.

"And we should be clear that, as for now, not enough progress has been made", he said.

But EU chiefs indicated it could be extended when they met at the European Council summit this week in Brussels.

Prime Minister Theresa May insisted any extension to the transition period would only last "a matter of months" after a furious Tory backlash.

"I am glad that it is not just unionists in Northern Ireland who recognise the dangers of the EU proposals on the backstop to the Union".

But the EU has rejected that because it says it appears to offer Britain too many trading advantages without deeper negotiations which it is only willing to start after Britain has left the Union.

May spoke of "working intensively over the next days and weeks" to achieve agreement that avoids a no-deal departure from the bloc for Britain on March 29 that could create chaos at the borders and in the economy.

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The main point of contention is the Irish border.

"When will you stop urging the Prime Minister to change direction and actually have the guts to stand up and say: 'In the name of God go, you are a disaster as Prime Minister and you are betraying Brexit".

Japanese vehicle firms warned that failing to reach a Brexit deal must be "avoided at all costs".

"And the European Parliament would not or should not approve a deal that undermines the single market and doesn't give Ireland what we need in relation to the backstop".

At a press conference in Brussels, Mrs May said an extension to the transition period "could be a further solution to this issue of the backstop in Northern Ireland".

But Mrs May has not come forward with the new "concrete proposals" demanded by European Council president Donald Tusk, instead telling fellow leaders that "courage, trust and leadership" are needed on both sides to find a solution.

British opponents of Brexit say the United Kingdom won't be able to strike a trade deal with the US unless it weakens its current EU-level protections on workers rights, animal welfare and environmental protection.

The chaos promised by "no deal" is very much in the minds of officials on both sides of the Channel.

Malmstrom said the Europeans "see this merely as preparations being made by the U.S.to negotiate with them and others". Now we know our limits: we don't want an agreement which calls into question the integrity of the single market, or the four freedoms, or which does damage to Ireland.

She is hemmed in by pro-Brexit members of her Conservative Party, who oppose any more compromises with the bloc, and by her parliamentary allies in Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, who insist a solution to the border issue can't include customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

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