Ireland seeks momentum on border ahead of key Brexit meeting

LONDON — Ireland’s foreign minister said Sunday that he’s hopeful Britain’s proposals for managing the Irish border after the U.K. leaves the European Union will generate the momentum to push stalled Brexit negotiations to their next phase.

As British and EU negotiators held weekend talks, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told Ireland’s RTE radio he hoped a crunch meeting Monday would yield enough progress to “allow this Brexit negotiation process to open up to phase two of discussions,” focusing on future relations and trade.

The EU has given Britain a Monday deadline to produce concrete proposals on the key issues in their divorce talks, including maintaining an open border between Northern Ireland and the Irish republic.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is due to meet top EU officials Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk in Brussels to lay out the proposals that will be considered by EU leaders before a Dec. 14-15 summit.

May’s office said the meeting was “an important staging post” on the road to the summit, but there were “plenty of discussions still to go.”

May’s government has said there will be no “hard border” between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., once Britain leaves the EU’s single market and customs union in March 2019. Ireland and other EU countries still want to know how customs checkpoints and other typical border activities can be avoided.

The two sides are reportedly close to a deal on other big issues, including the size of the bill that Britain must pay for departing the bloc and the rights of citizens affected by Brexit.

But as the divorce talks hit a crucial stage, divisions within Britain’s governing Conservative Party over the EU are limiting the room May has to manoeuvr.

Lobbying group Leave Means Leave told May in a letter that she must refuse to compromise on several points, such as ensuring that European Court of Justice jurisdiction over Britain ends on the day the country officially out of the EU in 2019.

Several high-profile Conservative lawmakers signed the letter, including former Cabinet ministers Nigel Lawson and Owen Paterson.

Britain hopes the EU will agree to a two-year transition period after Brexit, but the bloc has insisted the Court of Justice would have to retain its authority in Britain during that time.

A senior German member of the European Parliament, David McAllister, said Sunday that he thought there was a “50-50” chance of a breakthrough in the negotiations this month.

“I think both sides are working very hard to get a deal, but we’re not quite there yet,” he told British broadcaster ITV.

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