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UK prime minister Theresa May has again pushed for progress in Brexit talks, telling reporters on Friday that “we must step forward together… for both the UK and the European Union to move on to the next stage”.
Speaking on her way into an EU “Eastern Partnership” summit in Brussels, Mrs May said she would speak with Donald Tusk, the EU Council president, about progress in the Brexit talks, as both sides gear up for a crunch summit in December.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU Commission president, said he was confident that the Brexit talks would make headway.
“They are making progress,” he said, adding that he would meet with Ms May on December 4.
However, Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, sounded a note of caution, reiterating Dublin’s stance that it will not allow Brexit talks to progress without clear guarantees that a hard border will not be put in place between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Mr Coveney said “significant” work remains to be done before EU leaders can confirm that sufficient progress has been made, adding:
We are not going to allow a border to reemerge on the island of Ireland…What we are seeing at the moment is a negotiation which is coming to a head on these issues.
“We need progress on this issue,” he said, adding that regulatory divergence between the UK and Ireland would threaten efforts to avoid a hard border.
Mr Coveney said Dublin believes it has the support of other EU capitals for its stance, and he will speak today with EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
“I don’t think Ireland will have to block anything on its own,” he said.
Also on Friday, Mrs May described Russia as a “hostile” state that was “threatening the growth” of the EU’s Eastern European neighbours. She vowed that Britain would remain a firm security partner of the EU even after Brexit.