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Ireland urges May to publish plan to break border deadlock

Dublin’s Europe Minister, Helen McEntee, said the Brexit talks are approaching a ‘critical point’.

The Irish Government has urged Prime Minister Theresa May to bring forward her proposals to break the deadlock in the Brexit talks over the Northern Ireland border.

Dublin’s Europe Minister, Helen McEntee, said she was confident a deal could be done but that the negotiations were reaching a “critical point”.

He comments came after premier Leo Varadkar held talks in Brussels on Thursday with European Council president Donald Tusk and the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.

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Ireland’s Europe Minister Helen McEntee (Niall Carson/PA)

Mrs May has rejected the EU’s proposal for a “backstop” to ensure there is no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic after Brexit, arguing that it would effectively impose a border between the North and the rest of the UK.

But with EU leaders set to meet again later this month in Brussels to review progress in the negotiations, Ms McEntee said they needed to see Mrs May’s promised alternative as soon as possible.

“I do believe that we can reach an agreement. I am confident given the fact that we have done a huge amount of work on the withdrawal agreement – it is about 90% complete,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“We have agreed in principle a transition period. I do think there is a lot of common ground in terms of the future relationship moving forward, so we are really now at the critical point.

“I think in the next 10 days if there is a proposal, obviously on its own it won’t resolve the border issue, but certainty if something is legally sound and workable, I do believe that the (EU’s Brexit) taskforce will work with Prime Minister May.”

Where the will is there it can be done, and I do believe the will is there Helen McEntee

She added: “I do think that the Prime Minister wants to reach an agreement because I think this is the best outcome for all of us. I think a cliff-edge or a no-deal scenario is something we shouldn’t even contemplate.

“We have 10 days between the teams to negotiate and we have seen what has happened in a short space of time previously. I think where the will is there it can be done, and I do believe the will is there.”

Mr Tusk and Mr Barnier have said the next EU summit on October 18-19 will be the “moment of truth” when it should be become clear whether it is possible for the two sides to reach an agreement.

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Leo Varadkar with EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Thursday (Olivier Matthys/AP)

In Brussels on Thursday, Mr Varadkar welcomed the EU’s “ongoing solidarity” with Ireland.

He said Ireland’s objectives remained as they have been since the start of the process – protecting the Common Travel Area on the island; ensuring no hard border; protecting the rights of Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland; and striking a trade deal with the UK.

“I want to very much agree with Donald Tusk in his call for us to get down to business,” he added.

“I am very keen to see an agreement concluded by November if at all possible – that is the interests of Ireland, the EU and the UK.”

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