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'Significant progress' in talks

Brexit deal reached on Irish border and EU citizens

Theresa May in Brussels 8 Dec

Theresa May: crucial agreement

Theresa May and the EU negotiators have made “sufficient progress” in the Brexit talks, including a deal on the Irish border issue, it was announced this morning.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said it allowed for talks on the future UK-EU relationship to move forward.

Mrs May arrived in Brussels following a crucial breakthrough on the crucial Irish border deadlock.

The PM said there would be no hard border and the Good Friday Agreement would be upheld. EU citizens in the UK “will be able to go on living as before”.

She promised there will be no barriers “north, south, east or west” between Ireland and Northern Ireland with “full alignment” between the two.

The deal will maintain the integrity of the internal market in the UK, she said and denied the text implies any kind of special status for Northern Ireland.

However, it has also emerged that the deal will allow citizens in Northern Ireland to retain their EU passports, effectively creating an element of the “special status” that prompted concerns elsewhere.

The pound was trading at a six-month high against the euro as news broke of the draft agreement.

Mr Juncker said: “Today’s result is of course a compromise” adding that negotiations had been “difficult for both the UK and the EU”.

The Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar stressed to the people of Northern Ireland that there was no “hidden agenda” in seeking a united Ireland without consent.

The agreement paves the way for trade discussions next week.

The commission said it was ready to begin work immediately on the Phase Two talks, which cover trade and long-term relations with the bloc.

The six-point list of concessions which resulted in the Irish agreement:

CBI Deputy Director General Josh Hardie said: “The breakthrough in Brussels shows that where there is a will, there is a way.

“Firms have been watching negotiations closely and today’s announcement will lift spirits in the run up to Christmas. Sufficient progress is a present they’ve spent months waiting for.

“It’s now time to focus on the true prize of a new relationship and a deal that starts from 40 years of economic integration. With the same willpower shown today and jobs and living standards at the heart of every negotiating objective, these talks can set the UK up for the next 40 years of close alignment.

“There are two things that are top of the list. First is the final step for those EU citizens working here, and U.K. citizens abroad. It must be unequivocal that they are welcome, whatever the final deal.

“This cannot be their second Christmas where their rights are dependent on negotiations. Next is transition. Concrete assurances will build confidence and help firms across the U.K. and Europe to pause their contingency planning. 

“Above all, the Government has shown the impact of being determined to focus on securing a good Brexit for jobs. Discussions will continue to be tough, but today’s progress shows that careless talk of walking away can be replaced by confidence that the U.K. can get a good deal. Steely determination in the national interest must always come first.”

Comment: Sturgeon’s single market hopes dashed by Brexit deal


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