British, Irish leaders talk over phone on Brexit border deal

PM Theresa May is in Brussels this morning

"But I would like to repeat what President Juncker said on this, namely that this will have to happen this week, in this building".

British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar on Wednesday spoke on the telephone regarding the Brexit border deal in Ireland, May's office said in a statement here.

A spokesman for PM May said Brexit discussions were ongoing while a senior Irish official said talks were moving swiftly and that a deal was possible in hours.

If a hard Brexit for most of the United Kingdom and a soft Brexit for Northern Ireland is out of the running because of the DUP, and a hard Brexit for the whole of the United Kingdom including Northern Ireland is out because of the border issue, that leaves only a soft Brexit for all of the UK.

Separately, Director of the Centre for European Reform Charles Grant said he believes the recent setback on the border issue has weakened London's position and set off reverberations in Scotland, which will now seek a similar deal to Northern Ireland.

Later on Thursday, the political editor of the BBC said the leadership of the DUP in Belfast had not signed off on the border deal, meaning it could yet stumble, but May continued to plan to meet Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk early on Friday in Brussels to finalize the agreement.

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Britain agreed to pay a divorce settlement amounting to between 45 and 55 billion euros and to protect the rights of some three million European citizens living there after Brexit as part of the deal.

The intense time pressure on the PM to get European Union agreement to move to trade talks will only grow with the Council summit looming large and the risk of trade talks being delayed until well into the New Year.

The DUP scuppered this deal on the basis that it would move Northern Ireland closer to the Republic in economic terms. May is struggling to balance those demands against the concerns of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, which she relies on to support her government in Parliament.

It would also increase pressure from Tory Brexiteers for her to walk out of the talks and prepare for a "no deal Brexit".

"In Northern Ireland we guarantee there will be no hard border", May told a press conference with Juncker.

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