December 4, 2017 / 10:48 AM / a year ago

Irish foreign minister says Brexit border breakthrough possible on Monday

Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney arrives to attend the Eastern Partnership summit at the European Council Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, November 24, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

DUBLIN (Reuters) - No agreement has yet been reached between Britain and Ireland on the future of the Northern Irish border, but the breakthrough required to allow wider Brexit talks to proceed could come later on Monday, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May hopes to break the Brexit talks deadlock on Monday with a new offer on divorce settlements at a crunch meeting with EU officials, but she has not yet achieved “sufficient progress” on the Irish border - one of three issues that must be resolved.

Coveney said the talks were in a “sensitive place” with the two governments discussing possible texts of an agreement, which is a prerequisite for Britain to start discussions on a new trade pact and a two-year transitional deal.

“We’re not quite yet where we need to be. But it is possible to do that today,” Coveney told Irish state broadcaster RTE.

“Hopefully we’ll find a way forward today,” he said.

Ireland has called on Britain to provide details of how it will ensure there is no “regulatory divergence” after Brexit in March 2019 that would require physical border controls.

But any solution will need the support of Northern Ireland’s pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party, whose 10 members of parliament are propping up May’s government.

Coveney said that draft texts were produced following progress in talks last Thursday and that discussions had continued over the weekend.

“There are political conversations happening in both governments in relation to that text,” he said. “Both governments understand what each other is asking for.”

Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Alison Williams

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