Irish government presses Theresa May over border question

Helen McEntee is confident a deal can be struck. Picture: contributed
Helen McEntee is confident a deal can be struck. Picture: contributed
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The Irish government has urged Prime Minister Theresa May to bring forward her proposals to break the deadlock in the Brexit talks over the Northern Ireland border.

Dublin’s Europe minister, Helen McEntee, said she was confident a deal could be done but that the negotiations were reaching a “critical point”.

He comments came after premier Leo Varadkar held talks in Brussels on Thursday with European Council president Donald Tusk and the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.

Mrs May has rejected the EU’s proposal for a “backstop” to ensure there is no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic after Brexit, arguing that it would effectively impose a border between the North and the rest of the UK.

But with EU leaders set to meet again later this month in Brussels to review progress in the negotiations, Ms McEntee said they needed to see Mrs May’s promised alternative as soon as possible.

“I do believe that we can reach an agreement. I am confident given the fact that we have done a huge amount of work on the withdrawal agreement – it is about 90 per cent complete,” she said.

“We have agreed in principle a transition period. I do think there is a lot of common ground in terms of the future relationship moving forward, so we are really now at the critical point.

“I do think that the Prime Minister wants to reach an agreement because I think this is the best outcome for all of us,” she said.

“I think a cliff-edge or a 
no-deal scenario is something we shouldn’t even contemplate.”