STILL NO IRELAND DEAL FINALISED - JUNCKER
THERESA MAY FAILED TO STRIKE A BREXIT DEAL WITH THE EU DESPITE REPORTS OF AN AGREEMENT THAT WOULD HAVE KEPT NORTHERN IRELAND ALIGNED WITH EU REGULATIONS.
Both sides said they should unlock talks on future trade relations in the coming days.
"We will reconvene before the end of the week and I am also confident that we will conclude this positively," May said after a lunch with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who also voiced confidence in overcoming outstanding obstacles.
He insisted the meeting, after days of intensive talks behind the scenes, was "not a failure" and, well aware the EU does not want to humiliate May as she accepts many of its terms for withdrawal, credited the prime minister with hanging tough.
They spoke after government sources in Dublin said London had agreed to keep Northern Ireland "aligned" to EU regulations to avoid a "hard border" with the Irish Republic.
Word of that sent the pound higher on hopes of rapid trade talks but also provoked an angry response from May's allies in Northern Ireland, demanding equal treatment with the rest of the United Kingdom.
Underlining the conundrums of Brexit, the idea of Northern Ireland remaining closely linked to the EU single market prompted speculation that, to avoid new barriers between Belfast and London, the British mainland would have to follow suit.
The leaders of Scotland and London, which voted against Brexit, demanded they be allowed the same EU relationship as Northern Ireland. Yet May has ruled out such differentiated treatment or staying in a customs union or the single market.
"She is a tough negotiator, and not an easy one," Juncker said in remarks reflecting concern in Brussels that concessions by May could fuel a disruptive push in London to unseat her.
"She is defending the point of view of Britain with all the energy we know she has," the EU chief executive told reporters.
"Despite our best efforts and the significant progress we and our teams have made over the past days on the remaining issues, it was not possible to reach a complete agreement."Published: by Radio NewsHub