Theresa May faces crunch Brexit talks as deadline on progress looms
Theresa May faces crunch Brexit talks in Brussels today that could be make-or-break for her hopes of moving the negotiations onto trade this month.
The Prime Minister has high hopes of a divorce deal being reached in talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker - with one EU official saying there is a 90% chance.
But issues over the Irish border continued to rumble on as Dublin said no agreement was made during talks with Mrs May last night.
Her lunch with Mr Juncker today marks a deadline set by European Council president Donald Tusk for progress on the key exit issues - EU citizens' rights, the Irish border and the so-called ‘divorce bill’.
A breakthrough today could see Brussels agree to move onto future trade negotiations at next week's European Council summit.
One EU official told The Times there were “some open points to solve” but added: “We are 85-90% there.”
Downing Street said the meeting was an “important staging post” in the talks and noted that “plenty of discussions” lie ahead.
But after discussions yesterday between Mrs May and Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar on the Irish border issue, officials from Dublin told the Guardian there was “still a way to go”.
Mr Varadkar has been handed the power to block any proposals that could see a hard border on the island of Ireland.
The officials added: “The Irish government remains hopeful – but at this stage it is very difficult to make a prediction.”
After the working lunch today, Mr Tusk will call Mr Varadkar before any announcement on the negotiations is made.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and Brexit Secretary David Davis will also be present at the talks today, according to reports.