British Brexit minister David Davis (L) and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier shake hands as they meet at the European Commission in Brussels on March 19, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNAND
British and EU negotiators have made “good progress” in talks, officials said Monday, ahead of a crucial summit this week where London hopes to seal a deal on a post-Brexit transition period.
Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart David Davis met in Brussels after their teams held intensive talks at the weekend, with a press conference scheduled for later Monday.
The talks have focused on reaching agreement on the transition phase, during which Britain will follow EU rules until from when it leaves the bloc in March 2019 at least the end of 2020, in a bid to ease the shock of its departure.
“Good progress I understand but let’s see why Barnier and Davis have to say,” a senior EU source told AFP on condition of anonymity when asked if there was an agreement.
“Looking good,” another EU diplomat said.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, who met Barnier in Brussels, said on Twitter on Monday that “Brexit negotiations are moving forward.”
But he stressed that the thorny issue of how to avoid a hard border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland “remains a key priority for both negotiating teams and solidarity with our EU partners remains strong.”
The remaining 27 EU countries say Britain must agree to terms on Northern Ireland before it will sign off on the final version of their divorce agreement and advance to trade talks in April.
Britain has been keen to get the transition part resolved by the time EU leaders meet in Brussels on March 22-23 in a bid to give certainty to businesses that are worried by the lack of firm plans for economic ties after Brexit.