Time to find solution but there'll be no border between UK and Northern Ireland: Brexit Minister David Davis
'Frank discussions had on big challenges of the border'
It's time for both sides to find solutions to the Irish question in the EU talks, Brexit minister David Davis said stressing that will not mean a border created separating Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
David Davis said there had been good "technical discussions" and joint principles agreed on the common travel area and associated rights. However, he stressed any solution will not involve a border created within the United Kingdom.
The Irish Sea has been raised as a possibility as acting as a border after Brexit.
Mr Davis said there had been a change in pace in the negotiations. In a joint news conference with Michel Barnier, Mr Davis said the negotiations had narrowed to "a few outstanding - albeit important - issues". He said any solution on the border needed to be taken in the context of the future trade agreement.
Frank discussions have been held on the big challenges of the border. Davis
He said his "top priority" was to secure sufficient progress on the issues of citizens' rights, the border with Ireland and Britain's "divorce bill" by the time of the next EU summit in December.
"Now is the time for both sides to move together and find solutions... this is a serious business," he said.
Discussing Ireland, he said there had to be "frank discussions on the big challenges of the border" and they remained "firmly committed" to having no infrastructure between Northern Ireland and the EU on the island.
"Let's be under no illusion, we will only be able to conclude the talks finally in the context of the future relationship," he said.
"We respect the EU's desire to protect the legal order of the single market and customs union but that can not come at cost to constitutional and economic integrity of the UK.
"We recognise the need for specific solutions for the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland. Let me be clear this can not amount to creating a new border within the United Kingdom.
"We are resolutely committed to upholding the Belfast Good Friday Agreement in all its parts. We need to address the challenges that arise with pragmatism, creativity and high degree of political sensitivity.
"We owe that to people of Northern Ireland and Ireland."
We need to ensure the same reading on conditions, consequences and implications of Brexit on the Good Friday Agreement. Barnier
Mr Barnier said dialogue would continue on post-Brexit arrangements for the border in Ireland.
"We need to ensure the same reading on conditions, consequences and implications of Brexit on the Good Friday Agreement and the Common Travel Area that lead us to identify technical and regulatory solutions necessary to prevent a hard border - while preserving integrity of single market.
"A unique situation requires specific solutions."
Mr Davis said progress on citizens rights had been made as too with the divorce bill. He said the UK would pay for all its financial commitments made while it was a member of the union.
"But we need to see flexibility, imagination and willingness to make progress on both sides if these negotiations are to succeed and we are able to realise our new deep and special partnership."
Mr Davis would not be drawn when asked about a possible change in the UK's government before midnight (Brussels time) on March 29, 2019 when the divorce will be made final.
Mr Barnier said he would not comment on internal British politics but said that his role was to work with the UK government no matter who was the head of it.
Following the latest round of talks in Brussels, the EU's chief negotiator said they still had to see "sufficient progress" on the arrangements for Britain's withdrawal before they could move to the second phase of negotiations.
Belfast Telegraph Digital